Indigenous and human rights defenders from Brazil, Colombia, Chile and the USA visit London 13-20 October to seek justice from BHP over its trail of disasters

Human rights and environmental defenders are travelling to London to highlight the destruction caused by mining giant BHP such as the Samarco dam disaster – the worst environmental catastrophe in Brazil’s history – and to share what is at stake for communities resisting mine projects.
Visitors will be available for media interviews and we will holding a series of events, including a demonstration on 17 October outside the BHP annual general meeting.

  • Misael Socarras Ipuana, indigenous Wayuu human rights defender from La Guajira, Colombia
  • Leticia Oliveira, from the Movement of People Affected by Dams, working with people affected by Brazil’s Samarco dam disaster (pictured right)
  • Rosa María Mateus Parra, human rights and environmental lawyer working to defend the rights of indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant communities in La Guajira, Colombia
  • Lucio Cuenca Berger, director of the Observatory for Environmental Conflicts in Chile, accompanies communities in conflict due to extractive industries in Chile and Latin America
  • Roger Featherstone, director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, US, works to reform regulations governing hard rock mining, a mining technique that threatens the environmental haven of Oak Flat

If you would like to arrange an interview with one of our visitors or have any questions, please get in touch. Biographies are available online along with further quotes and community demands.

Wayuu community leader Misael Socarras Ipuana from La Guajira, Colombia, said. “I have six children, for whom I struggle daily to give them a better future, free of contamination and mining. I am participating in this tour to make known to the world the abuses of which we are victims daily because of the multinationals, and to seek friends who can help us in this struggle against the destruction of our territory, dreams, and culture, which is the worst that could happen to a people.”
Beyond BHP is co-organised by London Mining Network, The Gaia Foundation, War on Want, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, ThreePenny Festival Collective and Coal Action Network.
Press Contacts
London Mining Network: Lydia James 07460 394233
War on Want: Marienna Pope-Weidemann 020 7324 5060 / 07983 550 728
Notes for editors
The third anniversary of Brazil’s worst environmental disaster is approaching, when the deadly Fundão tailings dam breached in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais (MG), killing 20 people and decimating an entire river ecosystem. Anglo-Australian BHP and Brazilian Vale are parent companies of Brazilian mining company Samarco, responsible for the mine. Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), a coalition of local communities impacted by Brazil’s thousands of dam projects, has released a set of demands of BHP and The Renova Foundation (a non-profit organisation funded by Samarco, BHP Brazil and Vale, set up in the aftermath of the disaster) three years on from the catastrophe.
BHP began operations at Escondida, the world’s highest producing copper mine, in 1990. Today BHP remains the majority shareholder (57.5 percent) and manages the operation. Escondida has seen repeated strikes by workers demanding better working conditions. After using vast amounts of water from aquifers, a water desalination plant has recently opened at the mine to reduce pressure on local water supplies but desalination poses new threats relating to the biodiversity of the ocean.
Elsewhere in Chile, since entering the Aymara territories of northern Chile in the 1980s, BHP has committed irregularities which have caused the community of Cancosa to mobilise in opposition to Cerro Colorado, an operation fully owned by BHP. In June of this year, the company announced it will sell the operation to the private equity firm EMR Capital.
Mining company Cerrejón is a supplier of coal to UK power stations. It has been exploring, exploiting and exporting coal in the northern region of La Guajira for 40 years. During this time it has caused great damage as well as social, environmental, economic and cultural impacts that today still remain unresolved. There has been a systematic violation of the rights of African-descent, indigenous Wayuu and peasant communities in La Guajira, who have not been compensated adequately  for the damage, and now face situations of concern mainly regarding the following points: water, air, health, resettlement and prior consultation.
British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto and BHP are proposing their mining project, the Resolution Copper Mine (RCM), in the Southwestern state of Arizona. Communities are opposing the RCM method of Block Caving mining (underground hard rock mining that allows the ore body to collapse under its own weight – the underground version of open pit mining) and the resulting environmental destruction if this project moves forward.