Anglo American attempts to manipulate elections by limiting wide participation of people affected by the Minas Rio mine in Minas Gerais state, Brazil

By Gabriela Sarmet

On 27 August, a conciliation hearing is scheduled between the affected people and representatives of Anglo American. This was the decision of Judge Carlos Alberto de Faria, who granted the request by the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais (MPMG)’s to suspend the mining company’s call to choose the new members of the Coexistence Committee (Comitê de Convivência) by means of an election held via WhatsApp. 

The Committee is part of the Coexistence Program, one of the conditions (#45) of the Environmental Control Plan (PCA) of the preliminary and installation licenses granted to the mining company in January 2018 for the Minas-Rio project, in Conceição do Mato Dentro. Besides monitoring the activities, indicators and results of environmental actions undertaken in the mining project and eventually contributing to the adequacy of these actions, the Committee seeks mediation to resolve conflicts arising from the impacts of this project. Considering that there is no broad access to digital technology in the communities, which are mostly rural, an election via internet application would violate their rights to wide and informed participation in the mediation process – stated the judge in his injunction. 

In a public note, the Community Association of Residents of São Sebastião do Bom Sucesso (ASCOB) states that this decision was favourable to the interests of the communities involved in the Programme. The main point is that Anglo American’s unilateral decision could raise suspicions of irregularities in the process and the election result. Therefore, ASCOB advocates that the choice of new Committee members “must be based on dialogues, transparency of information, and the viability of the means of participation that are the basis of a stable and respectful co-existence”. 

By pursuing the Minas Rio project, Anglo American has forced a number of compromises on affected communities, including accepting the mining operations in the first place and then accepting the establishment of the Coexistence Program. Now it is clearly trying to manipulate the Program in its own interests, undermining still further the ability of local communities to decide on their own affairs. Let us hope that the Conciliation Hearing resolves the current issue in favour of the communities.