Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Samarco Iron Ore Mine
That the Senate—
(i) the disaster at the Samarco iron ore mine, owned by BHP and Vale, which claimed the lives of twelve people with 22 still missing, left thousands homeless, and has left 280 000 without drinking water,
(ii) comments by the Brazilian Minister of the Environment, Ms Izabella Teixeira, describing this as ‘the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history’,
(iii) the emergence of an independent report from 2013 warning of major design flaws in the waste stockpile and tailings dam which was not included in the application or the granting of a licence to Samarco,
(iv) that the pollution from the disaster has contaminated one of Brazil’s most important river systems, the Rio Doce, and
(v) that estimates of the cost of the clean-up range from US$1 billion to US$27 billion;
(b) offers its deepest condolences to the people of Bento Rodrigues, neighbouring communities, and downstream communities in Brazil affected by the disaster;
(c) calls on BHP and all Australian corporations active around the world to uphold local environmental laws and respect human rights; and
(d) supports adequate compensation for affected communities which should be paid by the owners of the Samarco mine.
Thank you, Mr President. The government extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the incident at the Samarco iron ore mine in Brazil. BHP Billiton and Vale have responded quickly and have set up an emergency fund for community support and rebuilding works. They have assisted in evacuating residents and have provided emergency accommodation and supplies. Andrew Mackenzie, CEO of BHP Billiton, has said:
In BHP Billiton, we recognise that we have a responsibility to support Samarco and the local authorities in the response effort, and I assure you I am absolutely determined that we will fully play our part in that response.
Australia has some of the strictest environmental laws and highest environmental standards in the world. BHP Billiton operates in Australia in accordance with these laws and there are strict measures in place to ensure this continues.
I think we are caught in the same place that we were yesterday. Whether or not the government intends to support this motion, I would seek leave to make a brief statement.
I thank the Senate for giving formality to this motion. I would also query whether Senator Ryan and the government team intend to vote for it or not. The condolences which are a part of this motion are extended on behalf of everybody in this place. Of course, this mine in Brazil is part owned by the Australian mining giant BHP. This motion calls on BHP and all Australian corporations active around the world to uphold local environmental laws, respect human rights and support adequate compensation for affected communities. This should be paid by the owners of the Samarco mine. I do not think that this is the end of this story and I certainly hope that we have got the unanimous support of this chamber for this important resolution.
Question agreed to.