Responding to the announcement overnight that BHP Billiton, along with Samarco and Vale, has reached multi-billion dollar compensation agreement with the Brazilian Government, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“Oxfam welcomes the announcement of this multi-billion dollar agreement between the Australian mining company BHP Billiton, its partners and the Brazilian Government. Oxfam has been one of many organisations calling for swifter action on this disaster and this is a positive step forward.
“We’re pleased that this Australian mining giant has taken responsibility for the disaster that destroyed homes, livelihoods, businesses and took the lives of 19 people in Minas Gerais state.
“We welcome the establishment of a Foundation to develop and execute environmental and social-economic restoration programs and we’re pleased that this will be subject to independent external audit.
“Given the concerns raised by ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday about the management of the disaster response and its impact on the affected communities by joint partner Samarco, we’re also pleased that control will be moved to the Foundation.
“It’s imperative that BHP, through this Foundation, ensures that people are ultimately not left worse off from this disaster, especially women and girls – they have suffered enough.
“This includes guaranteeing that resettlement and compensation processes are transparent and involve all affected community members. If this isn’t done well, the process could – and usually does – have a range of negative impacts on the community.
“We welcome the announcement that community representatives will be included on an advisory panel to the Foundation and we stress that representation from the community needs to be truly representative and renewed over time.
“We also call on BHP and its partners to establish a public grievance and complaints process for the Foundation, to help ensure the rights of affected community members are upheld.
“Oxfam and our partners will continue to monitor the operations of the Foundation and the ways in which community members are involved in its decisions.“
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