How much are human rights worth in the Brazilian mining and steel industry?

The International Federation for Human Rights, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos publish a human rights impact assessment report recounting affected communities’ voices and calling on the world’s largest mining company according to Forbes’ latest ranking, Vale, and its business partners in the steel industry to stop environmental pollution of communities in the State of Maranhão, Brazil.

For over 20 and six years now respectively, the communities of Piquia de Baixo and the California settlement in Açailândia, in the Brazilian State of Maranhão, have been suffering from the pollution generated by the pig iron and coal-burning industries operating in their backyard. Community members report numerous health problems, including serious respiratory and sight problems.

In addition to the pig iron and coal-burning companies directly causing the harm in the cases investigated, the former State-owned company, Vale, acts as a crucial player in the process. Main protagonist of the Grande Carajas project (set up when Vale was still a public company), Vale extracts the iron mineral in Carajas, transports it over hundreds of kilometers through the Carajas railway to the State of Maranhão, sells part of it to the pig iron companies, prior to subsequently transporting the transformed iron for export.

The report analyses the impacts of the steel and mining industry on the communities’ health and environnement, shedding light on another side of development projects. Indeed, while many inhabitants moved to the area a few years back in the hope of a better life, they have now disenchanted, as they suffer daily from the surrounding pollution. In addition, the report’s findings highlight difficulties in accessing information regarding environmental impact assessments, obtaining reparation before courts as well as moral and judicial harassment faced by human rights defenders denouncing negative human rights impacts linked to Vale’s activities.

A week before Mr Murilo Ferreira takes on his new functions as Vale’s CEO, the authors of the report are calling on Vale and its business partners to provide immediate reparation for affected communities, including resettlement where needed, and includes a number of recommendations to business entreprises as well as to governmental authorities, investors and buyers with a view to preventing any future abuses, as talks on the expansion of the railway Carajas (involving more than 5 billion dollars investments) are moving forward.

On the occasion of an international advocacy mission, organised in Brazil between May 16 and May 23, FIDH, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos, along with representatives of affected communities will present the report and discuss its recommendations with the authorities and industry representatives. While the responsibility of corporations to respect human rights is now recognised at the international level, FIDH, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos urge all concerned actors to take concrete and immediate steps to guarantee full enjoyment of human rights by communities affected by this industry.

Report summary in English:

Report summary in English
Full report in English

Full report in Portuguese:

Brazil Full Report Portuguese
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