CIEL, DPLF and Conectas co-facilitate discussion on recent mining dam collapse in Brazil

Publish Date: 
Sunday, April 3, 2016

On 1 April 2016, three ESCR-Net members - Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and Conectas Human Rights - co-facilitated the discussion "Brazil Dam Collapse: Corporate Accountability and State's Responsibilities". Bruno Toledo, of the Fórum Capixaba em Defesa do Rio, and Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Wastes, also participated in the event.

The event constituted a forum to debate the implications of the tragic collapse of the Fundão tailings dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, at the end of last year. The unprecedented damage and environmental harm caused by the collapse of the dam was responsible for 19 deaths and gravely impacted communities in the area. The mine was operated by Samarco Mineraçao S.A. - a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton.

Among the most powerful conclusions emerging from the discussion, participants highlighted that it is an error to categorize the dam collapse as a 'natural disaster'. Given that diverse actors had raised concerns and issued warnings based on possible structural damage to the dam holding tons of toxic mining waste, there was consensus that both the Brazilian government and the companies involved should be held directly responsible for the failure to prevent the collapse. As such, participants designated the incident as the biggest environmental disaster and the most serious environmental crime in Brazilian history.

The participants also formulated a demand for effective complaint and accountability mechanisms that prioritize the needs of communities, ensuring those most affected are heard and adequately informed.

For those unable to watch the livestream of the event, certain sessions are available here.