Brazil: Union demands transparency in investigation of dam collapse’s in Brumadinho

28 January 2019 16:41

The Brazilian union that represents the workers of the construction and maintenance of dams in Minas Gerais, Brazil, SITICOP MG, affiliated to the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), released a statement on the collapse of the dam administrated by the mining company Vale S.A in Brumadinho. The collapse that happened on 25 January 2019 resulted in the death of 60 people and 292 are still missing. Below is the statement made by the union which is calling for a full transparent and open investigation to the cause of the dam collapse and immediate support for the families of the victims and affected communities.

SITICOP MG Statement: Brumadinho---an accident waiting to happen

Since yesterday afternoon, on January 25th; Minas Gerais is again under the spotlight of Brazil and of the world because of a tragedy in the mining industry. Unfortunately, the collapse of the Feijão Mine Dam, administrated by the company Vale S. A., one of the five largest and most important mining companies of the planet, in Brumadinho Municipality, is not an isolated case.

In the last 17 years, there have been the following tragedies in mining industry in the state of Minas Gerais: Mineração Rio Verde, in Nova Lima (2001), Rio Pomba Cataguases Mining, in Miraí (2007), Mineração Herculano, in Itabirito (2014) and Mariana, Vale-Samarco (2015). Through the years it became more evident that the Dams’ collapses are the consequences of irresponsible corporate actions and the omission of public authorities for years.

As in previous cases, the terrible collapse has only occurred because the Vale S. A. has been failing not only to fulfill its minimum health and safety obligations, but also to monitor safety conditions of it properly.

Siticop-MG filed a complaint against Vale S. A. in the OECD - Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development- about the collapse in Mariana. The international organization, which gathers 36 countries and aims to strengthen the global economy, has already met with Siticop-MG that has been studying the next steps to be taken.

The tragedy in Brumadinho, classified as an extended work accident, is already the most serious occupational accident in the country's history. It occurred during the company's activities, under a determined occupational health and safety management and the victims were, in its vast majority Vale’s employees, either direct or outsourced.

The accident showed another perverse facet of liberalism: the reduction of constitutional obligations of the state and the withdrawal of labor and union rights. And, by refusing to meet and to listen unions, among them, the Siticop-MG; Vale imposes authoritarian internal relations and despises its employees and human life.

The disaster also shows failures in the process of licensing, supervision, monitoring, surveillance and in the emergency system of the construction and maintenance of dams in Brazil.

The accident is considered a crime because, despite evidence of high impact in case of rupture and the repeated warnings and denunciations made, including by Siticop-MG (which clearly denounced the conditions of the Brumadinho Dam); Vale has not complied with the legislation and safety regulations at the workplace.

Considering such behaviors and procedures, the dam collapse should be characterized a crime against the workers, against the population and the regional economy. The same has to be said in relation to the public bodies and institutions responsible for monitoring the companies’ activities and the compliance of the safety legislation.

Therefore, the Union understands that Vale, the federal government and the State of Minas Gerais are the responsible for the incident and demands immediate protection of the victims and their families. In addition, they have to ensure emergency care and help to all the affected.

The union calls on entities and all people to transform individual indignation into permanent popular mobilization demanding justice, decent work conditions and safety in mining industry and for the population as a whole.

The natural wealth of the country should be used to improve the living conditions of the Brazilian people. They cannot be manipulated only to attend the interests of capital, and, even worse, they cannot be causes of tragedies.

Therefore, it calls on the population and other entities to mobilize to ensure:

  • Immediate and integral support for victims and their families: The company and the governments take their responsibilities and guarantee assistance to all the victims, Vale employees or not.

  • Transparency in the investigations and guarantee of justice: For the constitution of an Independent Investigation Committee, bipartite being the State and civil society, bringing together the Ministry of Labor, the Public Prosecutors Labor Office, the Government of Minas Gerais, the State Public Prosecutors Office, the State Congress, CREA-MG, Siticop-MG, other trade unions and civil society movements.

  • Decent living conditions for all the affected people: guarantee the direct and indirect jobs that used to be generated by Vale in the region as well as proper compensation and indemnification for damages to the population of Brumadinho and other cities of the region.

  • Establishment of a monitoring and evaluation task force: a bipartite commission being the State and civil society should be stablished aiming to check the safety conditions of the dams in Minas Gerais.

  • Improvement and updating of the legislation of the mineral sector, at both, federal and state level, and guarantee its implementation.

Brumadinho, 26 January 2019

Trade Union of Workers in the Construction Industries of Minas Gerais - Siticop-MG