Nature Stand.Earth denounces European banks financing trade of Amazon oil to USA


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A groundbreaking report by Stand.Earth and Amazon Watch exposes a range of European banks have provided $10 billion USD in trade financing for over 155 million barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian region of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters to refineries in the U.S.

Why in the world would any bank that has policies on advancing human rights, sustainability, and climate change be financing the flow of oil from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region in Ecuador to US refineries? Makes you wonder if there’s a little hypocrisy in play? Our report led by Research Group and in partnership with Amazon Watch uncovered some serious findings…

The top six banks out of the 19 assessed in the report, account for financing 85 percent of all bank financed trade – despite having policies on advancing human rights, sustainability, and climate change.

The six banks are ING, Credit Suisse, Natixis, BNP Paribas, UBS and Rabobank.

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Hypocrisy prevails in the business world.

Norway is largest mining shareholder denounced for contamination in the Amazon

  • Ricardo Senra
  • BBC Brazil in Washington
28 June 2017

Video caption, Norwegian government mining company owes R $ 17 million in fine in Brazil for toxic mud

The Norwegian government, responsible for harsh criticism of Brazil's environmental policies in the past week, is the main shareholder of mining company Hydro, the target of complaints from the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) of Pará and almost 2,000 lawsuits for contamination of rivers and communities of Barcarena (PA), a municipality located in one of the most polluted regions of the Amazon rainforest.

In addition to facing lawsuits, the company has so far not paid fines stipulated by Ibama at R $ 17 million, after an overflow of toxic mud in rivers by one of its subsidiaries in the Amazon region, in 2009. According to Ibama, the leak put the local population at risk and generated "fish mortality and significant destruction of biodiversity".

Owner of 34.3% of the shares of the global aluminum mega producer, the Norwegian government made headlines around the world last week, after publicly criticizing the increase in deforestation in the Amazon. Awakening embarrassment in the first official visit by President Michel Temer to Norway, the country announced an estimated cut of R $ 200 million in the resources it transfers to the Amazon Fund, destined for environmental preservation.

But tests carried out by the Laboratory of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) indicated that one in five residents of the region where Norwegian companies are located is contaminated with lead, with a concentration of the chemical element in the body seven times greater than that the world average. Lead is one of the heavy metals present in the tailings of the mineral industry that is most harmful to the environment and human beings.

Among the toxic effects of lead in the body are diseases in the nervous and respiratory systems, heart problems and "extremely worrying" effects on children's cognitive development, according to the MPF.



Photo caption, Norwegian government has harshly criticized Brazil's environmental policies

"As a shareholder in several companies, the Norwegian state has clear expectations regarding corporate social responsibility, including environmental issues," the country's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Fisheries said in the report. The ministry's staff did not comment directly on Ibama's fines - which alleges that the company "hindered government action" in the exercise of monitoring environmental infractions in the company's area.

The Norwegian government said that social responsibility is "a central part of the dialogue between the ministry and the company" and said it was informed, as well as other shareholders, of the consequences of the 2009 spill in Hydro's annual reports.

Sought, the company denied responsibility for the contamination rates registered in the city, said that it invests in sustainable solutions and in dialogue with communities and informed that the leak of chemical waste in 2009 was the result of intense rains.

The Norwegian embassy in Brasilia declined to comment on the case.


Thanks to a water supply network serving only 40% of the local population, rivers and artesian wells are the main source of water in the region of small Barcarena - which has seen its population grow at a rate three times faster than the rest the country over the past 40 years thanks to the jobs generated by mining companies.

Formed by dozens of islands and streams that flow into rivers such as Icaraú, Tauaporanga and Barcarena, the municipality has experienced uncontrolled growth since it became an important exporter of mineral commodities (bauxite, aluminum and kaolin), vegetables (soy) and animals (cattle) alive).

To BBC Brasil, Hydro questioned the research used by the Attorney General's Office, stating that the spills of the subsidiary Alunorte do not represent "significant threats to human or aquatic life".

The company also did not comment on the fines imposed by Ibama, but said that it seeks transparent dialogue with everyone involved in the mining process, that it has strict water, soil and air monitoring systems and that "ensuring responsible conduct with society is highly important in all phases of operations ".



Photo caption, Hydro says toxic mud overflow was the result of 'rainy season'

Through Hydro, the Norwegian government is the majority shareholder in two large mining companies in the region: Albras, which produces aluminum from alumina (aluminum oxide), and Alunorte, which performs the process of obtaining alumina from bauxite - both purchased from Vale, which is still a minority shareholder.

Since last year, the Federal Public Ministry has demanded that the two miners, along with four other companies in the industrial hub of Barcarena, provide "on an emergency basis" two liters of drinking water per resident per day and "compensate for environmental and population damage. affected by contamination. "

The attorney general says that emissions from these companies, together with other companies in the region, would be responsible for the contamination of the area.

"The history of environmental accidents in Barcarena is impressive, an average of one per year," told the BBC Brazil the attorney general of the Republic Bruno Valente, who signs the public civil action filed in 2016.

"Hydro's overflow of mud from the tailings basin affected a number of communities in 2009 and to date there has never been compensation or a fine payment," he said.


Hydro disclaims any responsibility and says the tragedy was the result of a "period of intense rain in April 2009".

The Norwegian company says it has taken preventive and corrective measures after the episode, including reinforcements "of the capacity of the drainage system", in the "water treatment facilities" and in the "emergency plans" in case of an accident.

But the coordinator of the federal laboratory that found lead contamination rates in residents of the region, Simone Pereira, disputes the arguments.

"Technicians showed that the dam was already full and would overflow anyway, a fault that is human cannot be attributed to a natural phenomenon," said the coordinator of the Laboratory of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry at UFPA, criticizing what she describes as the omission of the Norwegian government regarding the impacts of its mining companies in the Amazon.



Photo caption, After a contamination episode in 2009, Hydro says it took corrective measures

"If Norway is concerned with the environment, it should not only be concerned with trees and deforestation, but also with rivers, soil, air and the population," he added.

In the report, Hydro informed that "it does not know details of the results presented by the UFPA laboratory and that" there is no connection "between the company's activities and" a supposed increase in the levels of lead found in the area ".


For Congressman Arnaldo Jordy (PPS-PA), who has a strong electorate in the region, the contamination of local rivers is "all the result of vulnerabilities in the mining protection system".

"The hand that strokes is the same as the stone," said the deputy to BBC Brazil, citing Norwegian investments against deforestation. "It seems hypocritical to me. They do it in the Amazon, they don't do it in Norway, because there is greater control there."

In 2012, according to official data from Hydro, more than 5,300 lawsuits related to socio-environmental crimes were being processed in the first instance against the mining company - most of which was the result of the overflow registered in 2009, which has not yet been definitively concluded.

After the multinational won 3,593 cases in the first instance and 599 in the second instance, approximately 2,000 cases are still awaiting a court decision.

"The court's decisions after the first instance are based on the fact that there is no evidence that the perpetrators suffer or have suffered the alleged damages related to the spillage of water contaminated with bauxite residues," says Hydro.



Photo caption, Norway has publicly criticized the increase in deforestation in the Amazon; Norwegians came to protest during Temer's visit

According to the MPF, however, the 2009 episode can be considered "the most serious environmental accident in the history of the Industrial District of Barcarena".

For the National Committee for the Defense of Territories Against Mining, which brings together 110 organizations, unions and social movements, Hydro's case is "an alert for Brazilian society that it is necessary to discuss the Brazilian mineral model".

"It is not possible for the President and the Minister of Mines and Energy to go around the world offering new mines to foreign capital, without looking at the trail of social and environmental destruction that Norwegian, Canadian and so many transnational companies leave in our country," said the committee. .

Already the political advisor of the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies (Inesc), Alessandra Cardoso, stressed that residents expropriated by the company still await indemnities guaranteed by law.

"Some communities have given up on continuing in their places of origin because the streams have been contaminated, but the companies are not keeping their commitments, while making a huge advertisement that they are responsible and sustainable," he said.

According to Inesc, the company received tax exemptions of R $ 7 billion from the Brazilian government.

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