Vale is the second-largest mining company in the world and the biggest private company in Latin America, with revenues exceeding US$ 45 billion and profits around US$ 17 billion.
But Vale is also a global leader in its devastating disregard for human rights and environment protections. There is even a global movement around the world called “Affected by Vale”, bringing together communities that are the victims of Vale’s greed. Every time Vale enters a new country or region, the “Affected by Vale” movement ends up with new members. Mozambique is no exception.
Burning carbon-based substances like oil, gas, and especially coal, produces billions of tons of extra carbon dioxide each year.Bill Nye
In Mozambique, Vale is mining coal at an open-cast coal mine in Moatize. For this, the communities from the area were relocated in Cateme. Standing in Cateme reveals why Vale is considered the worst company in the world. The area is dry, hot and desolate. The land produces dust instead of crops and the 40°C plus temperatures turn the small zinc-roofed houses where people have been resettled into over-sized ovens, with inside temperatures exceeding 50°C! The few times it does rain, the roofs leak and even though most houses are only a few years old, they are already cracking.
Life has always been hard in Tete province in inland Mozambique, but people developed survival methods. The community relocated to Cateme because of Vale’s mining had productive lands. They were close to heath posts, schools, churches, friends, family and one of the largest markets in the province where they could sell their crops. Now they are over 40km away with unreliable but expensive mini-buses for transportation.
People around Moatize were misled with promises of work, education, and development and hence accepted Vale’s mining project. Only when the affected communities began to see years pass and their livelihoods worsen did the true nature of the project became painfully clear.
After numerous failed attempts, verbal and written, formal and indirect, to discuss the issues affecting them did they start to stand up and demand to be heard. Earlier this year they held a peaceful protest and occupied the road and railway to make Vale take their concerns seriously.
The reaction from the Mozambican government, backed by Vale, was unmitigated violence by the rapid intervention police, who used live ammunition, and shot rubber bullets directly at unarmed peaceful protesters, sending 6 to the hospital and 14 to jail. The majority of the abused were too scared to speak or make any formal complaints after facing such violence.
The “atmosFear” around Moatize is heavy, with an ever-increasing militarization of peoples’ freedoms. One now needs government authorization to even visit the relocated community in Cateme and community members fearfully explain how government prohibits them from speaking out.
There is a constant police presence and a control point monitoring movement into and out of Cateme. Their livelihoods, rights, respect and hope have fallen victim to Vale who has brought the cruel curse of coal to Mozambique. Coal has unleashed a crisis of dashed expectations and abused communities. Leave the coal in the hole and let rights become reality!