The original Brazilian Portuguese article by MAB is here. This English translation is by Gabriela Sarmet.
With the support of ANAB, CASEC, PSOL and PT, action claims full hearing and reparation of damages in the Paraopeba River basin
Nívea Magno / Mídia Ninja
On Wednesday (10), communities affected by Vale’s socio-environmental crime in Brumadinho filed a lawsuit in the Federal Supreme Court (STF), asking for the suspension of the homologation of the reparation agreement concluded last week between the company and the government of Minas Gerais.
The document is endorsed by the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM) and is signed by a number of entities, parties and parliamentarians: National Association of those Affected by Dams (ANAB), Centre for Socioeconomic Alternatives of the Cerrado (CASEC), Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), Workers’ Party (PT), federal deputy Áurea Carolina (PSOL/MG), federal deputy Rogério Correia (PT/MG) and state deputy Beatriz Cerqueira (PT/MG).
This is an Argument of Violation of Fundamental Precepts (ADPF), an action that can be analysed by the Supreme Court in cases of violation of the Federal Constitution.
The group claims the affected people’s right to participate, directly and under equal conditions, in negotiations on the reparation of socio-environmental and socio-economic damages resulting from the collapse of the Córrego do Feijão dam in Brumadinho.
Reparations without listening to victims
Under negotiation since October 2020, the reparation agreement was discussed under secrecy, in confidential hearings between Vale, the government of Minas Gerais and the state justice institutions.
Although they organised themselves with the Independent Technical Advisory Services and produced documents such as the Urgent Damage Reparation Matrix, the affected people were prevented from participating in the process and only had access to the terms after the signing, celebrated last Thursday (4).
The lawsuit also highlights the violation of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), of which Brazil is a signatory, which states that peoples and communities must be consulted in relation to any project that affects their way of life.
The dam collapse impacted indigenous peoples in the Paraopeba Basin, as well as quilombola communities, artisanal fishermen, family farmers, traditional groups of extractivists, geraizeiros, benzedeiras and gypsy peoples, all excluded from the negotiation processes.
“It is absurd that after a crime that killed 272 people, destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people and left communities without water and in a deep process of falling ill, an agreement was reached without the participation of those affected”, says Joceli Andrioli, from MAB’s leadership.
Joceli also explains that “the resources included in the agreement must guarantee emergency actions for the next four years, at least, as well as full compensation for the lives of all those affected, which is only possible with the free and informed participation of those affected”, he adds.
Terms of the agreement
Based on data produced in technical studies, the ADPF demonstrates that the amount of R$37.6 billion is insufficient to ensure the financing of all reparation measures.
Technical studies produced by the João Pinheiro Foundation and the Public Prosecution Service of Minas Gerais established the value of R$54.6 billion, presented by the state government in preliminary hearings. Discounting what has already been disbursed by Vale in emergency actions, which was included in the agreement, the figure agreed does not reach half of this value.
Entities that support the affected families have made a survey of seven key points that are detrimental to the communities impacted by the tragedy:
- There was no participation of the affected communities in the construction of the agreement;
- The amounts foreseen for the affected communities are much lower than what will be allocated to the State. Only R$7.4 billion of the agreement will be directed to those affected throughout the Paraopeba basin.
- The money foreseen for emergency actions and income distribution is not enough to support all the affected communities for the proposed four years.
- The pending emergency aid, denied to more than 20,000 affected people, was not included in the agreement.
- The value of the agreement includes R$1.7 billion that has already been paid in emergency relief.
- Most of the money that will be destined to the State will not be invested in the affected region, but in road infrastructure works, such as the construction of the Rodoanel and the Subway in the capital.
- At the end of the negotiations, Vale had a discount of almost R$20 billion in relation to what had been predicted.
For MAM members, the conclusion of the agreement reconciles Vale’s interest in maintaining a good image with the electoral pretensions of the state governor.
“Vale’s concern is much higher in giving answers to shareholders than in repairing the damage in Brumadinho or helping the affected communities,” assesses Marcelo Barbosa, regional coordinator of MAM and resident of Brumadinho.
“With this influx of resources, Zema will be able to carry out a series of infrastructure projects in the state, most of them in Belo Horizonte, with a possible election in mind,” he adds.
Extinction of expertise – risk to proper damage mapping
According to the draft agreement published, most of the legal expertise of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), which aimed to map environmental damage to the basin and the affected communities, has been terminated.
It was also defined that the mapping of damages and environmental reparation actions will only be defined by the full reparation plan, prepared by a private company hired directly by Vale S/A (Arcadis).
This situation is extremely worrying, since the mapping of the damages, which initially would be done by an independent academic entity, will now be done by a private company contracted by Vale. We understand that this may cause irreparable damage to the environment and to the Paraopeba River basin.
In general terms, the lawsuit presented to the STF can be summarized in three key points:
- The annulment of the ratification of the agreement, so that the free and informed participation of those affected is made possible, respecting:
- Minimum guarantee of implementation of rights already foreseen in the agreement signed between Vale and the State of Minas Gerais that have been aimed directly at those affected, as well as maintenance of the governance system already established;
- The possibility of the affected people having a say in all parts of the agreement, including the allocation and distribution of resources;
- Maintenance of the emergency aid payment to the families while the consultation procedure lasts;
- Publicity and transparency in judicial and administrative acts throughout the negotiation of the terms of the agreement;
- State legislation authorising the ratification of the agreement.
- The STF establishes minimum criteria for the participation of those affected in the drafting of the agreement.
- Consideration of the ADPF as a matter of priority by the Plenary of the STF.
Federal deputies Áurea Carolina (PSOL/MG) and Rogério Correia (PT/MG), who are part of the External Commission created in the Chamber of Deputies to monitor the negotiations, stress that they are not against the conclusion of an agreement, but against the authoritarianism in the conduct of the process.
“In these two years, we have accompanied processes of illness and death resulting from this criminal tragedy. Disregarding the people affected is to continue subjecting these families to rights violations,” argues Deputy Áurea Carolina.
Rogério says there is no leniency, since Vale is responsible for the crimes in Mariana and Brumadinho. “In fact this is not about an agreement but about the obligation to pay. Vale is offering much less than it owes to Minas Gerais and especially to those affected by the dams,” he criticised.
The deputy is in line with the expectations of those affected by the extension of the agreement, as demanded by the communities impacted by the tragedy.
State Representative Beatriz Cerqueira (PT/MG), head of the Minas Gerais Assembly’s CPI that investigated the dam failure, denounced that the company continues to violate rights in other cities in the state: “I was in Citrolândia (Betim), Mário Campos and Juatuba and Vale continues with its crimes. There are communities that have had their ways of life totally destroyed”.
Beatriz stresses that the agreement cannot bypass the pain of the people to become an electoral platform. The parliamentarians support the initiative so that the affected families are protagonists in this process.