Brazil mine disaster a lesson for the industry

Media Releases article written on the 01 Mar 2016

Responding to ABC’s Four Corners program, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:

“Last night’s Four Corners program would have been eagerly watched by every Australian mining company CEO.

“It is a wake-up call to the industry. The vast majority of mine operations across the world have tailings dams and the most common type is similar to the one at the Samarco mine – at the centre of the disaster.

“It is vital that all mine operators across the world ensure best practice design, management and independent monitoring of tailings dams.

“As we have seen in Brazil, when dams fail they can have serious impacts on every aspect of people’s lives, including the environment in which they live and depend upon for their livelihoods.

“This includes the need to resettle affected communities, which in Oxfam’s experience is often a deeply disruptive process that can leave communities worse off than before if not managed properly.

“It’s vital that BHP and Samarco ensure resettlement and compensation processes are transparent and involve all affected community members. This includes the planning and delivery of livelihood restoration programs, which are often inadequate and therefore the biggest risk factor for companies managing resettlement processes.

“Where this is not done well, the risks of increased economic hardship, food insecurity and breakdown of trust and social conflict are greatly increased. Companies also risk compounding the damage to their reputation from the original failure.

“BHP needs to ensure that all people who have been affected by the dam disaster are provided with adequate information and are able to participate in the planning of restoration and compensation processes.”


Three months ago, a horror mudslide swept through the towns and villages in the Gualaxo River Valley in Brazil, destroying homes, businesses and taking the lives of 19 people.

The waste came from a failed tailings dam from the huge open cut Samarco iron ore mine, half owned by Australia’s BHP Billiton. Brazil’s chief environment officer calls it the biggest environmental disaster in the country’s mining history.

For interviews or more information, please contact Alice Plate on 0418 873 782 or