‘Human and Environmental Costs of Mining’ Seminar brings together representatives from different parts of the world

On the afternoon of 15 March, the seminar “Human and Environmental Costs of Mining: alternatives and resistance” brought together representatives from different parts of the world at PAF1 on the Ondina Campus of the Federal University of Bahia (Universidade Federal da Bahia: UFBA).  The activity was organized by the Brazilian Antinuclear Coalition (Articulação Antinuclear Brasileira: AAB); the International Coalition of People Affected by the Vale Company; CESE; International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité: CIDSE); the Comboni Network; the National Committee in Defence of Territories Against Mining (Comitê Nacional em defesa dos Territórios frente à Mineração: CNDTM); People’s Dialogue; the International Federation of Human Rights (Federación Internacional de lós Derechos Humanos: FIDH); Churches and Mining; and the Movement for Popular Sovereignty over Mining (Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração: MAM).

Based on concrete cases from the resistance struggle, the meeting aimed to address in depth the debate about the current extractivist model, with an emphasis on mining.  It sought to analyse the Latin American and global context, defining joint pathways to confront the violations of the extractivist model and coordinate between the affected communities and the movements for the defence of rights, strengthening the dynamics of resistance and the search for alternatives, based on alliances and coalitions at local, national and international level.

Maria Júlia Zanon from MAM pointed out some of the disastrous impacts of mining in the interior of Minas Gerais: the environmental costs (approximately 900 tonnes of water are spent on “washing” minerals per second); violence against women (over the last three years, cases of violence against women have risen by 270%).  “Ways of life are being dismantled.  This model also exploits the miners, it kills, mutilates, maddens.  This system is not interested in the Brazilian people”, pointed out Maria Júlia, highlighting the rupture, on the previous Tuesday, of the pipeline within the Minas-Rio project, which crosses 32 municipalities in the interior of Minas Gerais (525km).

In Piquiá de Baixo (Maranhão), air pollution exceeds the indices recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).  It was and is resistance by the local community that has guaranteed access to the population’s fundamental rights.  The community has organized and gained the right to resettlement in an area free of the levels of pollution generated by enterprises around the current neighbourhood.  They have already acquired the land and the funding for the construction of a new neighbourhood, whose name, “Piquiá da Conquista”, was chosen by vote.

Maria Isabel Cubides from the FIDH reported on the pressure the federation has been applying since 2011 on the authorities in Brazil and on international bodies to ensure the rights of the Piquiá de Baixo community. “We have used a methodology that seeks to evaluate the impacts on human rights and the generation of mobilization.  We believe that this is an alternative way of resisting the activities of companies, which are very violent and have a great capacity to influence, providing tools to those who are directly affected.  It is a methodology to guarantee reparations and access to justice”.

Contamination by asbestos dust in Simões Filho, in the Metropolitan Region of Salvador, was also addressed.  Although many countries have banned asbestos, Brazil still uses the mineral fibre.  Mr Belmiro, who has suffered injuries from asbestos dust, reported that, between 2002 and the present day, 82 deaths related to exposure to asbestos dust have been registered in the neighbourhood of Simões Filho.  “I am not only in this struggle for myself, but for all my companions who are in the struggle, whose pathology has been confirmed, the families of those who have already gone.  Asbestos has permanent side-effects, it is carcinogenic.  Leaving families without protection, bereaved”, he summarized.

In the country’s northern region, Marly de Fátima Carvalho de Melo, from the Federal Universtiy of Pará, reported the killing on the previous Monday of Paulo Sérgio Nascimento, a leader who worked in the resistance struggle against mining in the industrial district of Barcarena (Pará).   The researcher warned of water contamination by waste from bauxite washing by Hydro Alunorte – Norsk Hydro, an aluminium mining company.

Reports from representatives from the African continent revealed the global extent of the impacts of mining activities. In Zimbabwe, more than 200 people have been killed in conflicts related to diamond extraction, but many more have been buried in the fields, unregistered.  In South Africa, environmental devastation, the proliferation of disease, government corruption, dependence on underemployment and an increase in the social abyss were reported.

The activity ended with a spiritual moment in memory of Paulo Sérgio Nascimento and Deputy Marielle Franco.  Those present were invited to participate in the Themed World Forum about Extractivism/Mining, planned to take place in November 2018 in South Africa.


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