Brazil's worst mining disaster: corporations must be compelled to pay the actual environmental costs

Garcia, Leticia Couto, Ribeiro, Danilo Bandini, de Oliveira Roque, Fabio, Ochoa-Quintero, Jose Manuel, and Laurance, William F. (2017) Brazil's worst mining disaster: corporations must be compelled to pay the actual environmental costs. Ecological Applications, 27 (1). pp. 5-9.

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In November 2015, a large mine-tailing dam owned by Samarco Corporation collapsed in Brazil, generating a massive wave of toxic mud that spread down the Doce River, killing 20 people and affecting biodiversity across hundreds of kilometers of river, riparian lands, and Atlantic coast. Besides the disaster's serious human and socioeconomic tolls, we estimate the regional loss of environmental services to be similar to US$521 million per year. Although our estimate is conservative, it is still six times higher than the fine imposed on Samarco by Brazilian environmental authorities. To reduce such disparities between estimated damages and levied fines, we advocate for an environmental bond policy that considers potential risks and environmental services that could possibly be impacted by irresponsible mining activity. Environmental bonds and insurance are commonly used policy instruments in many countries, but there are no clear environmental bond policies in Brazil. Environmental bonds are likely to be more effective at securing environmental restitution than post-disaster fines, which generally are inadequate and often unpaid. We estimate that at least 126 mining dams in Brazil are vulnerable to failure in the forthcoming years. Any such event could have severe social-environmental consequences, underscoring the need for effective disaster management strategies for large scale mining operations.

Item ID: 50438
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-5582
Keywords: biodiversity losses, compensation, environmental policies for mines, liability to damages, Payment for Environmental Services, rehabilitation, restoration, tailings dam failures
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 08:58
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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