We have a small team of researchers who write reports and publications, and, as a network we work with member groups, and groups outside the network on joint reports, open letters, publications and Early Day Motions.
In 2017, we produced a report on Brazil’s Samarco iron ore tailings dam disaster, in the state of Minas Gerais called The River is Dead’.
The tailings dam collapse on 5th November 2015 devastated communities all along the Rio Doce river system in Brazil. Nineteen people were killed and the environmental damage was catastrophic: it was Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster. Around 1.4 million people are still seeking urgent action to remediate ecosystems and restore livelihoods. London-listed mining giant BHP and Brazilian mining company Vale S.A are joint owners of Samarco: over three years later and they are still in the process of rehousing people and providing compensation.
On 25th January 2019, another tailings dam burst, also in Minas Gerais – only 74 miles from the Samarco disaster. The Brumadinho iron ore dam was owned by Vale S.A – the second disaster in just over three years. The death toll is currently 170 (February 2019), but some 130 people are still missing, meaning the final number of dead is likely to be far higher. Vale S.A employees told their bosses that the dam was unsafe, yet this was not heeded. Most of the people who died were workers – in the canteen and an administration building that were situated downstream of the dam.
EU commission lobbying
We have been involved in working with European Parliamentarians and NGOs to lobby the European Commission on mine waste policy and reporting on sustainability. In autumn 2018, we joined over 20 other organisations in calling on the European Commission to improve the legal framework for corporate sustainability reporting.
BHP’s trail of disasters
BHP’s trail of disasters is a briefing on the messes that the mining company leaves behind in some of the countries that it operates in. This work will be expanded in 2019 to include other mining companies such as Rio Tinto.
New research that we are embarking on this year is on just transition. Some of the communities that we work with – such as Cajamarca in Colombia, and the Xolobeni community in South Africa – are campaigning for the #righttosayno to mining, and in doing so are resisting state and corporate intimidation, bribes and corruption in attempts to forge ahead with projects without prior informed consent. Instead, many of these communities want to continue doing what they have for generations: to live as subsistence farmers and as fisherpeople, often as well as developing tourism as an additional source of income, as well as other alternatives. The wishes of many communities that include generating existing forms of income, or developing new, alternative forms of income, and the need for a just transition away from the production and consumption of minerals, is why this research is desperately needed.
UN binding treaty
We are involved in work on the UN binding treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, and are part of the UK civil society working group on the Binding Treaty, which has just produced a common position paper for UK government and parliamentary advocacy.
As part of our work with Ecologistas en Accion in Spain, we have been monitoring the activities of Berkeley Energia, which wants to open the European Union’s only open-cast uranium mine. In May 2018, we sent an open letter to the London Stock Exchange, explaining why we believed that the company should not be allowed to move its listing from the Alternative Investment Market to the main London Stock Exchange. The change in listing nonetheless went ahead, demonstrating once again the need for greater scrutiny by the UK’s corporate listing authorities. In June, researcher Richard Harkinson wrote an article on the company’s attempt to open the mine and the growing resistance of local people and allies to the project.
In November 2018, we helped draft an Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament on the need for justice for families suffering because of the Marikana Massacre. This was submitted by Roger Godsiff MP, chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on South Africa. This was a continuation of our ongoing support of the communities – including the widows and the miners still imprisoned – who continue to suffer as a result of the 2012 massacre of 34 striking mine workers.