Brazil’s handling of the Mariana Dam Disaster labelled a ‘travesty of justice’

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A newly published UN human rights council report claims that ‘urgent attention’ is required to address Brazil’s ‘regression from its human rights obligations’.

The advice comes from UN Special Rapporteur Bashkut Tunak after he revealed that none of the 42 projects to repair damage from the 2015 Mariana dam disaster are on track.

The UN is due in Switzerland imminently to discuss the UN human rights council report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes – available here.

The Mariana Dam Disaster

The report alleges that mining companies failed to provide effective support for victims of Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, which killed 19 victims and impacted the lives of over three million people.

“Following the Mariana and Brumadinho disasters, no corporate executive of Vale, BHP or Samarco stands convicted of criminal conduct,” the UN Special Rapporteur explains.

“It is a travesty of justice suggesting some in Brazil are indeed above the law.”

Bashkut recommends that the government implement reforms to ensure that corporate executives are ‘always held accountable for environmental and occupational crimes’, including BHP Bilton and Vale for their ‘inaction leading up to the Mariana disaster.’

He explained, “Instead of tightening controls on extractive industries after the Mariana disaster, Brazil’s Government inexplicably expedited licensing and failed to ensure adequate monitoring and oversight of operations.”

International cooperation

According to Bashkut, Brazil ‘absconded from its duty to prevent and protect’ and he believes government officials are now using Covid-19 to ‘threaten our common future and the human rights around the world.’

The necessity for ‘international cooperation’ in order to ‘help turn Brazil back toward a path of progression’ is highlighted in the 25-page report.

“If left unchecked, the situation in Brazil stands to spiral into not only a national catastrophe, but also one with phenomenal regional and global repercussions, including the destruction of our climate,” Bashkut said in the UN human rights council report.

Case history

The Mariana Dam Disaster was the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history and it has triggered one of the biggest legal claims ever filed in a British court.

The disaster killed 19 people and devastated the lives of millions of Brazilian people, killing livestock and destroying homes.

The collapse of the dam, which stored mining waste and is owned by the Samarco joint venture between BHP and Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale, poured roughly 40 million cubic metres of mining waste into communities, travelling over 650km into the Atlantic Ocean.

PGMBM’s involvement

Tom Goodhead, PGMBM’s Managing Partner, was approached by Bashkut to speak about the BHP lawsuit regarding the Mariana Dam Disaster.

PGMBM is continuing to fight for justice for over 200,000 people in Brazil who suffered a loss as a result of the disaster.

We are representing individuals, Brazilian municipalities, Krenak Indigenous communities, and the Catholic Church.

Learn more about the case against BHP

PGMBM (a trading name of Excello Law Limited) – SRA License Number 512898