Three years ago, Real Media filmed a boisterous protest outside a press conference and shareholder’s meeting in London. The meeting was called by the Brazilian mining corporation Vale, and Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton. The protest, supported by London Mining Network and ‘BP or not BP?’ and featuring Brazilian performance artist Tiago Gambogi, followed a spate of five accidents in two years. Two major dams had also burst in November 2015 releasing 60 million cubic metres of toxic slurry which killed dozens of people and left a quarter of a million without clean water. The sludge (containing poisonous arsenic) decimated wildlife in the River Doce and spread 500 km to the ocean.
Yesterday, there was another dam burst at a Vale iron ore mine. Although the amount of slurry released appears to be smaller than the 2015 disaster, early signs are that the local death toll is much higher, possibly hundreds.
Even if managers and company owners are eventually held to account, they will likely only face fines. Isn’t it time for criminal laws to apply to corporate wrong-doing?