(Source: MJ/Fides/CIDSE)

On the afternoon of November 5, 2015, the dam of the Fundão iron mine in the Brazilian city of Mariana collapsed, causing the deaths of 19 people and injuries to 50 others as well as the destruction of countless homes.

– Impunity reigns five years after crime

The sea of toxic mud devastated the Río Doce and reached the ocean at Espírito Santo. Five years have passed and those responsible for the tragedy have still not been brought to justice.

In 2019 the crime of murder was withdrawn as part of the ongoing legal proceedings. The deaths caused by the collapse of the Mariana dam were considered by the judicial authority as the consequence of the flooding due to the collapse.

During this period, the destroyed communities have not been rebuilt and no response has yet been provided for the recovery of the environment.

– Brazilian Church expresses solidarity with those affected, calls for “true ecological conversion”

On the fifth anniversary of the Mariana dam disaster, Vicente de Paula Ferreira, Auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte and Executive Secretary of the Special Commission for Mineral Extraction and Integral Ecology (CEEM) of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil (CNBB), reaffirmed: “On this date, we wish to express our solidarity with all those affected and our commitment to the Common Home”.

According to a note from the CNBB, the Commission approves the important points expressed in the “Letter of complaint of the people of Mariana affected by the collapse of the Fundão dam”, with the organisers of which Caritas is developing a partnership:

“We demand: a) the restitution of the right to decent housing, including the preservation of the lifestyles of destroyed communities as well as traditional communities; b) economic compensation, knowing that some injured rights are irreparable; c) we also reaffirm medical, psychological, economic and social rehabilitation of individuals and communities; d) support for fair compensation for material and immaterial losses and damages”.

According to Bishop de Paula Ferreira, the CNBB Mining Commission hopes that criminal disasters of this nature will not be repeated, and in addition to measures for the conservation, restoration of honour, culture and memory of the local people, that there will also be “a public request for forgiveness, which has not yet been presented, so that justice may be done”.

“We want to renew our commitment to a true ecological conversion”, the bishop concluded.

“We support all those who are victims of such atrocious crimes, as Pope Francis said in the encyclical Fratelli tutti, so that we can move from a culture that kills to a culture of fraternity and social friendship”.

– CIDSE: “A catastrophic case of corporate negligence”

Also commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Mariana dam disaster this Thursday was the Brussels-based Catholic social justice organisation Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité, or CIDSE, which in a statement rued what it called “the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history”.

CIDSE – a federation of Catholic development agencies in Europe and North America – called the Fundão disaster “a catastrophic case of corporate negligence” that risks being “forgotten and ignored”.

Warning that “Brazil remains a literal minefield of weak dams, poor compensation and corporate impunity”, CIDSE denounced that “the international legislation to assure just operations of multinational corporations is clearly falling short”.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council is currently negotiating a binding treaty to hold multinational corporations accountable for human rights and environmental violations throughout their global supply chains”, the social justice group recalled.

It added that such a treaty “would support rights-holders in affected communities to hold justice processes in the headquarter countries of multinational corporations, giving them access to more justice systems”.

“CIDSE, our members and partners continue to follow the legislative progress and make recommendations for the draft text of this treaty. After a recent negotiation week of poor participation from the EU and disruptive inputs from China, Russia and Brazil, Mariana’s anniversary rings a solemn bell of ongoing loss, with little sign of change”, the group lamented.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.