On 4th Dec 2015, the world’s biggest ore producer, Vale, held a shareholders’ meeting and press conference at the Mayfair Hotel, London.
A month earlier, on 5th November, two tailings dams burst in the state of Minas Gerais in the south-east of Brazil. The dams were managed by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale, and the Anglo-Australian mining giant, BHP Billiton.
An environmental disaster was unleashed as 60 million cubic metres of toxic slurry flattened five settlements and filled the River Doce floodplain. Twenty three people were killed, 600 displaced, and a quarter of a million left without clean water.
The dirty mud has since travelled 500km to the ocean, and despite assurances from Vale, the UN have backed up local studies that show the effluent is high in toxic metals including arsenic.
This is the fifth accident in two years in the area, and Vale (given the ‘Nobel Prize of Shame’ in 2012) had ignored prior warnings about tremors and the structural integrity of their dams.
Protesters gathered outside the Mayfair hotel and gave Vale a demonstration of mud contamination and a clean-up, as Brazilian performance artist, Tiago Gambogi, was joined by independent activists, supported by members of London Mining Network, and BP or not BP.