On September 15, 2021, the first brick was placed in the collective resettlement of Paracatu de Baixo, in Mariana (MG). The Renova Foundation used the occasion to advertise, but for those affected, the date was not a celebration. Six years passed before the first house began to be built.
The reality is repeated in other affected communities by the mud from the Fundão dam, owned by Samarco/Vale/BHP Billiton, which broke in 2015 in the district of Bento Rodrigues.
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According to information from Renova, the new community of Bento Rodrigues will house 203 families. But, so far, 10 houses have been built and none delivered. In Gesteira, 37 families were to be resettled, but only the land survey was carried out. In Paracatu de Baixo, 81 families are expected to be sheltered, but no house is ready either.
Time pressures for negotiation
Maria das Graças Lima Bento, a member of the Affected People Committee, is a resident of Gesteira and one of the people who will be resettled by the repair project. After a lot of struggle, those affected managed to get the Renova Foundation to acquire a land of the correct size for the homes and buildings they had in the old community, such as the school, the community hall, the church and the soccer field. But nothing has been built yet.
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The delay makes those affected prefer to accept “family resettlement”, which is a kind of individual indemnity for the purchase of a house in another location. Maria das Graças was one of the people who decided to negotiate.
“A lot of people did this because of the delay. We’ve been fighting for six years. Age is approaching, others are not in very good health, some have even died without having their right guaranteed”, says Maria das Graças. “But now everyone will be far away”, he laments.
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Fear of popular mobilization
For the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), it is noteworthy that the Renova Foundation has already purchased the land and, even so, made a great effort during the pandemic for those affected in Gesteira to make an individual agreement.
For the member of the Letícia Oliveira movement, the Renova Foundation has acted to prevent communities from rebuilding. “They are afraid that people will meet, unite and continue to demand their rights together”, he says.
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According to Renova, individual resettlement has already been negotiated with 136 families, either because they were affected but did not live in the communities, or because they gave up living in collective resettlement. Maria das Graças reports that, today, more than half of the families in Gesteira opted for this modality.
In note to the Brazil de Facto MG, Renova claims that 69 properties were acquired for families who opted for individual resettlement and six houses have already been delivered in this modality.
Tilting is not punished by Justice
In the analysis of Letícia, from MAB, the delay is a strategy, but also a “bullshit”, since the Justice has not acted to ensure compliance with deadlines or fines. “Companies know that nothing will happen to them. In the case of Brumadinho, no one was arrested, in the case of Mariana neither”, she says indignantly.
To try to solve the housing problem, Letícia reports that those affected are building their new homes themselves. They fear that the process will drag on for many more years, and that the housing allowance paid by Renova will be cut off without notice.
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“It’s an injustice, because these people are living in worse conditions than before, because of the companies. But at the same time, it shows how our people manage to actually build a solution to the problems, something that companies as giants as Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton have not done”, points out Letícia.
Diseases may be related to contaminated sludge
The mining companies responsible for the Fundão dam, Samarco/Vale/BHP Billiton, made a series of statements about the non-dangerous nature of the mud that ran into the Rio Doce Basin. Especially in the early days, company directors repeated “the mud is inert”.
Nonetheless, studies show otherwise. One of the most recent, organized by researcher Dulce Maria Pereira and carried out by the Federal University of Ouro Preto (UFOP) in partnership with Cáritas Brasileira, was launched in March 2020.
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The study analyzed the presence of heavy metals in soil, water, air and fish, and found some on a much larger scale than allowed by international treaties. He also found the presence of adenoviruses, which are viruses that cause respiratory illnesses, such as the cold.
The survey recalled the reports of those affected in relation to the great increase in respiratory diseases, which may be related to this virus. The study recalls that numerous other diseases may be related to the presence of the heavy metals found, and points out that some of them can happen over many years, with the patient’s continuous contact with the substance, which can lead to accumulation in the body.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Larissa Costa