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Two years after Brumadinho disaster, safety concerns persist at Vale

26 January, 2021Two years after Brazil’s worst environmental and industrial disaster, subcontractors at mining company Vale are still raising concerns over health and safety and bullying by management.

In December 2020, Júlio César de Oliveira Cordeiro, a bulldozer operator, was killed in a landslide at the Córrego de Feijão iron-ore mine. Oliveira was employed by Vale Verde, a company contracted by Vale.

According to the leader of Minas Gerais’ heavy construction union, Eduardo Armond, ubcontracted workers regularly report that Vale managers bully them into working even when they are mentally unwell and that they are afraid to do their jobs due to the lack of workplace safety.

Despite asking to meet with Vale to discuss the health and safety conditions for all workers for the past year, no meeting has taken place.

"Júlio César de Oliveira Cordeiro’s death is another reminder of the Brumandinho murder, and that reminder won't go away until we have justice for everyone and Vale takes responsibility for its role in the disaster. It's also a reminder that workers' rights to health and safety are indivisible,”

says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL health and safety and mining director.

Representatives from Vale and the Minas Gerais state government have discussed compensation to be paid in relation to the Brumadinho disaster for the last two months. However, on 21 January it was announced that the talks had broken down

The Movement for Dam Victims (MAB) has condemned the fact that the people affected by the disaster have not been involved in the talks, as it implies that a secret deal will be reached, one that is unfair and that will only benefit Vale.

MAB is calling for emergency financial aid, independent technical experts to ensure that dams are safe, and for the right to participate in compensation discussions to safeguard the rights of those affected.

Lucineide Varjão Soares, president of IndustriALL affiliate CNQ/CUT, member of IndustriALL Executive Committee and mining sector co-chair, said:

“How much is a life worth? It's been two years since the Brumadinho disaster and Vale has still not admitted its guilt or accepted responsibility for the crime it committed against the workers, society and the environment.

“Vale has been using legal mechanisms to hold off the court case and has not put forward a proposal that meets the needs of the victims' families or that reflects the extent of the damage caused. The courts have bowed to big business instead of forcing them to pay for what they have done.

“It's time for justice to be delivered. That's why MAB, together with unions and other social organizations, is calling for the situation to be resolved once and for all."

On 25 January 2019, the tailings dam owned by Vale collapsed, releasing more than 10 million cubic metres of toxic waste onto the municipality of Brumadinho in the state of Minas Gerais. A total of 272 people lost their lives and eleven people are still missing.