Photo credit: Sindicato de Quimicos ABC Brasil

Photo credit: Sindicato de Quimicos ABC Brasil

Anniversary of tragic dam disaster in Brazil

02.11.2016

As the anniversary of one of Brazil’s worst environmental disasters looms, unions are demanding that mine owners BHP Billiton and Vale take responsibility for the dam tragedy and ensure that similar accidents can never be repeated. 

5 November marks the anniversary of one of the worst mining tragedies in Brazil, when a dam at the mine in Mariana burst, claiming 19 lives, displacing hundreds of people and causing an environmental disaster as the toxic waste killed flora and fauna.

A year after the disaster, the region has still not recovered and miles of the Doce river, providing both drinking water and livelihood for fishermen, are polluted.

In October, federal prosecutors in Brazil filed charges of homicide against 21 people saying "security was always of secondary importance", and that officials had ignored signs that the dam was unsafe before the collapse. The companies also face charges for environmental crimes. 

“It has been a very long year for the communities affected,” says IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches. “As unions, we must continue to fight back against corporate greed and to ensure that BHP Billiton and Vale are held accountable for the tragedy in Mariana.”

To highlight the anniversary and to continue the discussions on what caused the disaster and the continued challenges, unions and civil society organizations are coming together for a march.

The march, expected to attract hundreds of participants, is departing on 31 October from the coast and going along the contaminated Doce river to arrive in Mariana on 5 November. President Lula da Silva will be present to mark the first anniversary of the tragic events.

IndustriALL affiliates in the BHP Billiton/South 32 global union network will join the massive solidarity manifestation on 5 November, concluding two days of meetings.

The Samarco Mineração S.A mine in Mariana, Brazil, is owned by mining giants Vale and BHP Billiton.