Brumadinho, 6 months later: amidst the mud, the fight goes on

With experience in the deal with Vale in Mariana (MG), affected identify company strategy to deny reparations and, by means of collective strength conquer rights in the first moment after […]

With experience in the deal with Vale in Mariana (MG), affected identify company strategy to deny reparations and, by means of collective strength conquer rights in the first moment after the crime in Brumadinho.

On the 25th of January this year Brazil shakenly watched the images of the burst of the dam of the Córrego do Feijão mine – a gigantic area of mud spreading out where before there was green, a river and more than two hundred people.

photo two indigenous people looking at the contaminate river

Photo: Lucas Hallel

Immediately the reaction with the incoming news from Brumadinho brought feelings of public commotion expressed in questions such as “again?”, and “what now?”aside from the obvious outrage at the lack of responsibility from a company that put profit above an entire other city, above a water basin, above human lives. To the affected by dams of other areas of the country, aside from intense solidarity, Brumadinho put them in alert: “are we safe?”

Six months later, the municipality of Brumadinho still lives in pain and suffering. But also lives through an intense process of struggle for reparation, rights and justice. Because it’s the second rupture of tailings dam of Vale in a short space of time – the crime in Mariana was almost four years ago – the space of negotiation in Brumadinho brought people in more advanced levels about the subject, especially the affected. With the experience in dealing with Vale in Mariana it was easier to more clearly identify the company’s traps, who also tried to act in a predatory manner in Brumadinho.

“Since the first moment of the process, Vale had an effort in controlling the territory, controlling the affected, the institutions, the rhythm of the reparations, who they want to repair and who they don’t, the way in which they want to do reparations; always trying to individualize, isolate, not taking responsibility for the reconstruction of the life of the affected,” states Pablo Dias of the national Coordination of the Movement of the Affected by Dams.

Undoing traps

For the coordinator of the MAB working in Minas Gerais having being able to guarantee the direct participation of the affected in the negotiation process, especially in the judicial hearings was essential for Vale not developing their strategy and combination of institutions for stalling the affected like they did in the Rio Doce crime, Dias highlights.

Photo of manifestation, person holding cross written we are all affected

Photo: Joka Madruga

Right after the rupture the company tried to put professionals selected by Vale themselves to provide medical and psychological consults – which was rejected by the affected because of the discomfort caused. What happened was there was made a financial resource transference, but the professionals were independent aside the SUS (universal public health system) doctors who were sent to the region.

The distancing of Vale from the essential work for the reparation also happened in other important areas like in the registering of the affected. In Brumadinho it wasn’t Vale who determined who was and wasn’t affected by the crime. This way, there not being created a management Foundation, like the Renova in Mariana, was central to take apart the strategy of protecting the company and postpone responsibility of rights of the affected.

Besides being able to distance Vale from the territory, the guarantee of Technical Assistances is considered progress for the MAB because now it is possible to collect more complete information and have detailed studies of the impacts, without the company’s interference in the process.

Aside from the environmental destruction and the human losses, Vale also disrupted the entire local economy. Because of this justice understood the need for agreement about emergency financial aid – which is a minimum wage per adult, half for teenagers (12 to 17 year olds) and a fourth for children, for a period of one year. All the inhabitants of Brumadinho are entitled to the aid as well as inhabitants in a one kilometer radius from the margin of the Paraopeba river until the city of Pompeu, by the dam of Retiro Baixo.

The payment of aid in these terms is an achievement considering the broader concept of affected by dams – which are not just those in the hot zone in the proximity of the dam, but all of those truly affected, suffering direct and indirect impacts from the crime.

A court settlement has also been made with the Ministério Público do Trabalho (Ministry of Labor) to handle the indemnizations fo the workers who died in the rupture.

Despite this more concrete scenario regarding the steps for the reparation, Vale continues working to speed up individual indemnizations and close deals that are far from the collective definition of parameters. “The more agonized and in debt over time, the easier it gets for the company to harass the affected”, comments coordinator of the MAB, Pablo Dias.

Photo protestors with MAB flag front of Justice Department
Photo: Joka Madruga

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The MAB post-Brumadinho

After the crime, the first actions of the Movement of the Affected by Dams in the region were of interlocutiona and humanitarian care for the affected. “Our effort is to try and guarantee that the families have a bit better condition facing such a devastating situation in their lives”, Dias explains. In light of this about 60 militants of the MAB from different states were present in solidarity to Brumadinho right after the dam burst.

The first efforts were to ensure emergency issues regarding housing, food and the quality of information coming from the Fire Department and Civil Defence. The MAB also received requests from families to send them to the institutions.

To fight for their rights, the affected organized themselves in committees – with persons of reference for each community – which potencialized the participation in the conquest of the first items of reparation. “However much shaken, it was important that the affected participated in the negotiation process to avoid that a deal was made above them”.

During the six months, every 15 days hearings are organized about the theme with the presence of representatives of Vale and of the Ministério Público (Public Prosecutor’s Office). Even wihtout power of speech in this space, the affected, throught commitees, watch what is debated in the Court of Justice of Minas Gerais and bring the information to the communities; when there are hearings there are always mobilizations which gather up to 300 affected at the door of the Minas Gerais Court of Justice. Currently the MAB already works alongside 15 municipalities along Paraopeba River Basin.

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| Publicado 21/12/2023 por Coletivo de Comunicação MAB PI

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