3 weeks ago, a mining disaster in Brazil resulted in a toxic mudslide that dumped 50 million tons of toxic mud waste into an area spanning +850km. “It is unacceptable that it has taken 3 weeks for information about the toxic risks to surface,” said UN #humanrights experts John Knox & Baskut Tuncak. They call on #Brazil and relevant businesses Vale and BHP Billiton (Samarco Mining S.A.) to take immediate action to protect the environment and health of communities at risk. http://ow.ly/V4lfH
“The steps taken by the Brazilian government, Vale and BHP Billiton to prevent harm were clearly insufficient. The Government and companies should be doing everything within their power to prevent further harm, including exposure to heavy metals and other toxic chemicals,” they stressed.
“The scale of the environmental damage is the equivalent of 20,000 Olympic swimming pools of toxic mud waste contaminating the soil, rivers and water system of an area covering over 850 kilometers,” Mr. Knox warned.
The expert noted that the Doce River, one of Brazil’s great water sheds, “is now considered by scientists to be dead and the toxic sludge is slowly working its way downstream towards the Abrolhos National Marine Park where it threatens protected forest and habitat. Sadly the mud has already entered the sea at Regencia beach a sanctuary for endangered turtles and a rich source of nutrients that the local fishing community relies upon.”
“The Brazilian authorities should assess whether Brazil’s laws for mining are consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to information,” said Mr. Tuncak. “Under international human rights standards, the State has an obligation to generate, assess, update and disseminate information about the impact to the environment and hazardous substances and waste, and businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including conducting human rights due diligence.”
The Special Rapporteurs stated that “this disaster serves as yet another tragic example of the failure of businesses to adequately conduct human rights due diligence to prevent human rights abuses.”