Mining companies try to boycott technical advice for the people affected

Despite being approved in court agreements, only three of the 26 Independent Technical Advisory Services provided for the Doce and Paraopeba River basins are in operation due to the refusal […]

Despite being approved in court agreements, only three of the 26 Independent Technical Advisory Services provided for the Doce and Paraopeba River basins are in operation due to the refusal of the companies involved.

By Guilherme Weimann, from Belo Horizonte (MG)
Special for the Movement of People Affected by Dams

Since the collapse of the Fundão dam, in the municipality of Mariana (MG), in November 2015, communities have been denouncing the power of mining companies to conduct the damage mitigation process. It means that the defendants (Samarco, BHP Billiton and Vale corporations) are the ones who determine who the victims are and the actions that must be taken to repair the losses.

In this scenario, civil society organizations have developed an instrument to try to reduce the inequality of power between mining companies and those affected. Independent Technical Advisory Services (ATIs) emerged, precisely, with the objective of empowering affected communities and enabling them to produce their own diagnoses about the different impacts of the disruption on their lives.

For this, each ATI brings together an interdisciplinary group of specialized professionals (lawyers, psychologists, social workers, agronomists, etc.), defined by each region according to their specific demands.

This was precisely the proposal agreed in the Preliminary Adjustment Term (TAP), signed by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais (MPMG) and mining companies (Samarco, BHP Billiton and Vale), in January 2017, and celebrated in the Additive Term, in November 2017.

Built on three axes – environment, socioeconomic and monitoring of the actions of the Renova Foundation – TAP established the Brazil Human Rights Fund as the responsible organization to conduct, together with those affected, the process of choosing Technical Advisors.

As a result, from the second half of 2018, the Brazil Fund held public hearings that guaranteed the communities the definition of eighteen entities for Technical Advisory Services spread throughout the entire Doce River Basin, from Mariana to Espírito Santo . However, to date, none of these Technical Advisors are in operation.

In an open letter, five entities that were appointed to take on Technical Advisory in the different territories along the Rio Doce Basin (Aedas, Adai, Caritas Diocese of Itabira, Caritas Diocesan of Governador Valadares and Centro Agroecológico Tamanduá) denounce that the global financial value presented by mining companies is fourteen times smaller than that built in a participatory manner, and approved by the Task Force and the Brazil Fund. In addition, the companies are contesting the four-year duration of the Technical Advisors, approved by the Court. For mining companies, the working time should only be one year.

According to the lawyer for the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), Tchenna Maso, the Technical Advisory is “a fundamental right to ensure that those affected are fully compensated, as it allows those affected by the crime to participate in the construction of the repair process” .

Regarding the refusal of the mining companies to comply with the agreement to make the instrument viable, Maso opines: “When Vale and the companies deny the effectiveness of this right, they are denying the right of the affected populations to decide how things should be redone after the dam burst, triggering series of human rights violations “.

The only places where Technical Advisory Services are already operating are the municipalities of Mariana, Barra Longa and Rio Doce (which also covers Santa Cruz do Escalvado and Chopotó), selected directly by the Public Ministry in public consultations with residents, before the Brazil Fund was appointed as mediator of the process.

Brumadinho: history repeats itself

A similar delay is occurring in the Paraopeba River Basin, affected by the rupture of the dam in Brumadinho (MG), owned by Vale, in January 2019. The Preliminary Agreement Term (TAP), signed in February last year, institutes the creation Independent Technical Advisors.

As in the case of Rio Doce, five Technical Advisors were chosen by the communities to act throughout the territory that encompasses from Brumadinho to Pompéu, in Minas Gerais. However, again, Vale tries to illegitimate them and delay their implementation.

In a document sent by the defense of Vale to the 6th Court of Public Finance and Municipalities of the District of Belo Horizonte, the mining company asks for a reduction in the budget, scope of action and duration of Advisory Services. In practice, it uses the same arguments that hindered the beginning of the work of Advisors in the Rio Doce Basin.

According to lawyer Heiza Maria Dias, of the State Association for Environmental and Social Defense (Aedas), selected to lead the process of Technical Advisory Services in Brumadinho and Territory 2  (Mário Campos, São Joaquim de Bicas, Betim, Joatuba e Igarapé), Vale’s disagreements are radically different that the original rol stated for the technical advisory.. 

” Vale’s statements points out to the dismantle of the right to Technical Advisory. In relation to the scope it’s important to highlight that the corporation are suggesting a Technical Advisory without the technicians and without any consultation, it means that it only remains a project administration and a very small number of mobilizers.

According the the lawyer, Vale actually intends to reduce the functioning of the Advisory, leaving it to be only a space of giving over information. By this it limits the access to information and reflection from the perspective of those affected. 

With work plans already formulated the selected entities by the Independent Technical Advisory expect for a resolution of the Justice to give the start up with the pres-seen activities for region affected, since there haven’t been taken ‘ effective measures to solve the problems caused by the mining tailings of  Córrego do Feijão.

Until the closure of this article, Vale, owner of the dam which burst in  Brumadinho (MG), did not answer the questions about this issue.  

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