February 25 marked one month after the catastrophic failure of mining company Vale’s tailings dam, situated in the town of Corrego do Feijão, in the municipality of Brumadinho (southeast Brazil). The death toll has since mounted to 179, and 131 people are still missing. The government of Minas Gerais has prohibited the consumption of water because the tailings (mine waste) have reached the Paraopeba River.
The unions carried out an act in solidarity with the victims affected by the greatest environmental, labour and human tragedy in the country, and demanded dignified health and safety working conditions.
CNQ/CUT union president, Lucineide Varjão, who is a member of IndustriALL Global Union Executive Committee and co-chair of the mining sector, participated in the action together with representatives of 11 unions affiliated to FITEM (CNQ-CUT), as well as social movements and researchers in the sector.
“In addition to providing solidarity to the victims, we seek to understand the reasons for the rupture of the Corrego do Feijão dam, the actions of Vale S.A and the organization of social movements.
“There are many other mine tailings dams in the country, and we believe that participating in these actions is fundamental for the strength and unity of the mining unions in Brazil and throughout the world,” said Varjão.
The event was also used to alert society about the precarious conditions of tailings dams belonging to other mining companies in the country, where workers are extremely unprotected, and prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. In Brazil there are 88 tailings dams built in the same way as Brumadinho.”
Experts agree that the tragedy was not a surprise. Despite having all the elements for a possible catastrophe, Vale ignored the warning signs for years. Vale will have to pay compensation to all the inhabitants of Brumadinho, following a decision made by the Court of Justice of Minas Gerais, on 20 February.
Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL, stated:
“This is a crime, not an accident. We mourn for the dead and we sympathize with the victims of this terrible tragedy. It’s time for Vale to listen and take concrete steps to improve industry safety. “
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