CHRISTIAN AID HAS welcomed reports that Brazil’s Federal Police is bringing criminal charges against Vale for environmental crimes, relating to its role in the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, and has called for urgent justice and compensation. 

The international development charity, which co-authored a report, The True Cost of Mining, into the disaster this, year alongside the Movement of People Affected by dams (MAB) believes a further 33-45 such dams are vulnerable and leaving thousands at risk. Tailings dams are typically an earth-fill embankment dam, used to store tailings or by-products of mining operations. These can be liquid, solid, or a slurry of fine particles.

The Brumadinho dam’s collapse on 25 January 2019 released 11.7 million cubic metres of toxic waste and mud, killing 270 people and contaminating the Paraopeba River and nearby water systems and lands. An estimated 944,000 people have had their livelihoods impacted.

Christian Aid is calling for families of the people killed by the Brumadinho dam disaster and people who have been displaced or lost their livelihoods to be fully compensated by Vale and responsible state actors.

The Brazillian Federal Police’s investigation found evidence on the commission of crimes against animal life, flora, water resources, and various crimes of pollution. Federal prosecutors will now evaluate the conclusions and determine whether charges will be brought.

Fionna Smyth, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy for Christian Aid, said: “Families have been torn apart by the Brumadinho disaster and the community remains devastated nearly three years on. Reports that criminal charges are to be brought for environmental crimes against Vale are a positive step but must come with real justice and compensation.

“Nothing short of an independent, thorough and swift criminal investigation into what can only be described as serious human rights violations will do.

“We also need systemic change. No longer should mining companies be left to mark their own homework. With other dams posing a risk, we need an international agreement that places the rights of people before greed.”

The report, The true cost of mining: Ensuring justice for people and communities affected by the Brumadinho dam disaster calls for:

  • Families of the people killed by the Brumadinho dam disaster to be fully compensated by Vale and responsible state actors.
  • Compensation to people who have lost their livelihoods through contamination of waterways, lands and water should be provided using a fair, consultative and transparent process.
  • People and communities displaced by further unsafe dams need adequate compensation, and support for their livelihoods.
  • Mining companies with tailings dams in every country need to be subject to mandatory disclosure of risks. Initiatives such as the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiatives are important initial steps, but should be made mandatory.
  • A gender impact assessment of the human rights abuses and reparations should be conducted, according to nationally approved legislation and following guidance issued by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
  • Extraterritorial responsibility of multinational companies headquartered abroad should be ensured through duty of vigilance and mandatory human rights due diligence laws.
  • A UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights should be agreed, providing robust access to remedy for human rights violations by multinational companies, including for individual victims, communities and to address gendered impacts.
  • Robust implementation of human rights and environmental protection legislation should be ensured, with community participation. Modern mining generates huge volumes of waste. Effective tailing management is crucial to reduce waste and protect communities and the environment. This requires mandatory legislation.


* Read the reportThe True Cost of Mining here.

* Source: Christian Aid