By Francis McDonagh, for LAB
For the first time a Brazilian company has been awarded the title ‘Worst Company in the World’. The title this year went to the Brazilian multinational mining company Vale. This Public Eye award has been given annually since 2000 by the Swiss NGOs Declaration of Berne and Greenpeace Switzerland on the basis of votes on the internet, and is announced to coincide with the annual Davos World Economic Forum. This year the award was also announced at the World Social Forum thematic meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Vale was nominated by a Brazilian NGO, Justice on the Tracks (Justiça nos Trilhos) in association with the International Network of People Affected by Vale.
The coordinator of Justice on the Tracks, Fr Dário Bossi, said that his group works with 6,500 families living along the railway line the company uses to transport its ore. ‘There are communities in which 59% of the population constantly suffer from fevers as a result of respiratory problems.’ Fr Bossi also said that the Vale’s train, ‘the biggest in the world, with 400 trucks, daily transports iron ore worth US$ 29 million and so can’t stop. It hits an average of one person per month, as well as livestock, because of the lack of protection.’ Fr Bossi also claims that Vale’s Capão Xavier iron ore mine in Minas Gerais threatens the water supply of the state capital, Belo Horizonte. Friends of the Earth Brazil say that the steelworks vale is building in Sepetiba in Rio de Janeiro state will increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 76%.
The international operations of Vale cited by the critics are in Mozambique, Peru, Indonesia, New Caledonia and Argentina. In Mozambique Vale’s coal mining operations in Moma and Moatize in the North and Central regions are said to have displaced 760 families between November 2009 and April 2010. Other displacements are said to be planned.
In Canada, Vale’s subsidiary Vale-Inco’s attempts to reduce wages and conditions led in 2009/10 to some of the country’s longest strikes, 12 months in Sudbury and Port Colborne, in Ontário, e 18 months in Voisey’s Bay, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, involving more than 3,000 workers. In Canada Vale has also been the subject of prosecution and a civil suit for environmental damage.
In the last days of voting Vale narrowly overtook the Japanese company Tepco, responsible for the nuclear plants at the centre of the disaster in Fukushima. Among the main reasons for the company’s ‘victory’ is its decision in 2010 to take a 9% stake in the company building the controversial Belo Monte dam. Vale, previously a Brazilian state-owned company, was privatised during the presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
For full details of the Public Eye summary of vale’s operations, see http://www.publiceye.ch/en/vote/vale/