IACHR to investigate brazilian government and mining companies for human rights violations during the pandemic based on stories by the Mining Observatory

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) accepted a complaint from union entities about the agglomerations of workers and the violations of rights during the pandemic in the operations of Brazilian mining companies.

The Brazilian government has been notified and has 90 days, until the end of July, to manifest itself. If the Brazilian State does not comment, a new notification will be sent which, if ignored again, could lead the Commission to proceed with the complaint and the investigations. Initially, however, the IACHR seeks a “friendly solution”.

Early in the pandemic, after the first accusations of agglomeration in mining companies, the federal government was approached by representatives of the sector and published an regulation on a Saturday night to consider mining an essential activity.

Stories made by the Mining Observatory that showed, with videos and photos, the situation of workers in the operations of several mining companies, such as Vale in Pará and Minas and CSN in Minas Gerais, were cited in the complaint made to the IACHR.

The latest data available, from 2018, shows that Brazilian mining companies formally employ 212 thousand direct employees. But, as outsourcing in the sector is widespread, the actual number is much higher.

“Mining carried out in an uncontrolled and unlimited manner during the pandemic is contributing to increase the contamination of workers and the communities where they operate”, says Maximiliano Garcez, a lawyer who filed the complaint with the IACHR.

The mineral sector argues that mining provides essential inputs for the hospital and medicine sector and that is why it could not stop.

In fact, the contribution of minerals destined for these sectors represents only 0.01% to 0.51% of the total extracted, says the complaint, which can be supplied by the stocks already available.

Unlike Brazil, countries like Mongolia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Panama determined the suspension of mining activity due to the pandemic.

Even with the worst health crisis in 100 years, the year 2020, driven by the record price of iron ore and gold and the fact that companies have not stopped, represented a 36% higher profit for mining companies than in the previous year, with R$ 209 billion.

The complaint was formalized at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by entities such as the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), the National Confederation of Workers in Industry (CNTI), the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM) and several unions.

The entities express their concern about the sector’s unhealthiness and how the improper classification of essential activities by the Federal Government threatens life, dignity, health and safe work by people working in mining.

The request is for the Commission to recommend to the Brazilian government the monitoring of compliance with all measures determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) by companies, and that a fine be imposed in case of non-compliance with these measures.

The complaint also requires transparency in the number of infected workers; the creation of a technical body to assist in the identification of urgent needs that require the continuation of mining activities, revoking mining as an essential activity; maintaining jobs and wages for workers whose activities are suspended because of the risk of contamination; and that adequate working conditions of social distance and protection against contamination are guaranteed for the mining services that are considered essential.

The complaint also asks the IACHR to declare that, in this case, the Brazilian State has violated Articles 1.1, 4.1, 5.1, 11.1 and 27.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights; Articles I, XI and V of the American Declaration; and articles 7, 7-e, and 10 of the Protocol of San Salvador.


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