Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Protesters hit Brazilian mining giant Vale over involvement in Belo Monte

April 20, 2012

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.

More than 150 demonstrators protested outside Vale's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro during the Brazilian mining giant's annual shareholder meeting over the company's social and environmental record, reports Amazon Watch, a group that is fighting the massive Belo Monte dam.

Amazon Watch said some the protesters were workers and community members affected by Vale's operations, which span globally. Among the complaints was Vale's 9 percent stake in the Belo Monte dam, a project that will flood large tracts of rainforest and indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon. Belo Monte has been widely condemned by human rights groups and environmental NGOs.

Activists released an "Unsustainability Report" [PDF] in conjunction with their protests. The report highlights social and environmental concerns around Vale's operations.

As a public company that has invested heavily in its corporate image, Vale may be particularly vulnerable to such criticism. Earlier this year Vale won the Public Eye Award, a dubious honor that recognizes the world's "worst company", according to the award's organizers. In response to the award, Vale defending its stake in Belo Monte by arguing the project "is consistent with the company’s growth strategy."