It is with broken hearts that we, the participants of the recently held Thematic Social Forum on Mining and Extractive Economy, watch one of the worst mining disasters ever to occur unfolding in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais Brazil. Although the official death toll stands currently at less than 100 people, it is becoming evident that more than 300 people will have lost their lives and the death toll could go well beyond 600. This is based on the number of unaccounted workers and residents and the diminishing possibility of finding anyone alive.
By this statement, we wish to record our solidarity and grief as we share the pain of the families of the victims and the communities affected by this catastrophe. This is not some natural disaster. It is a predictable outcome of a mining project driven by the logic of maximizing profits at all costs. Nor is it a coincidence that this disaster takes place at a Vale owned mine. On 5 November 2015 in Mariana, another iron ore tailing dam jointly owned by Vale and BH Billiton collapsed resulting in 19 death and massive destruction. Vale, a Brazilian transnational corporation is involved in destruction in its operations, not just in Brazil but all over the world, not least in Mozambique. Its flagrant disregard for safety, for the environment and for the working conditions of workers is characteristic of a state-owned corporation that has been privatized.
As we stated in our declaration adopted at the Thematic Social Forum on Mining and Extractivist Economy:
“Extractivism is leading to the undermining of workers’ rights – where they exist. Health and safety regulations are systematically violated, workers are informalized and wages are being driven down.”
“Nature, climate, water, resources and all forms of life are not on sale! They are the commons that we have to protect and share with all peoples and future generations. The right to the commons and respecting its preservation is an ethical imperative and the guarantee for peace and social justice.
As affected mining communities, as workers and the dispossessed, we demand that Vale and its shareholders must be held accountable! The current practice of impunity and collusion between mining bosses, state officials, and senior politicians must stop. If the Brazilian courts cannot prosecute Vale’s bosses then they must be brought in front of the International Criminal Court as their actions are the complete destruction of life, community, and nature.
Vale’s Brumadinho mine disaster makes even more urgent the campaign demanding that mining-affected communities should have the right to say no! to destructive mining and other extractivist projects.
Issued by the organisers’ of the Thematic Social Forum on Mining and the Extractivist Economy and endorsed by Amadiba Crisis Committee, Southern African Green Revolutionary Council, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) WOMIN, Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Alternative Information and Development Centre.
Please visit the TSF website to see videos from comrades in Brazil who are in Brumadinho and are providing g first-hand accounts: