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Wednesday, November 27 • 15:00 - 16:45
Preventing and addressing dam failures - what needs to be done?

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Session organized by the Responsible Mining Foundation, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the UN Global Compact Brazil, Hivos, PODER, the FGV DIREITO SP Law School of São Paulo, the Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP Funds and the Korean CSO Task Force team on XPXN dam failure.

Interpretation provided in French and Spanish

Webcast of the session:
Meeting link
Meeting number: 846 511 945
Password: nSk4CUJH

Session description:
The failure of dams (be they tailings dams from mining operations, or dams built for hydroelectricity or irrigation) poses huge threats to local communities, workers, and the environment. Recent dam failures have led to catastrophic impacts on human rights, with large numbers of lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and water and land resources severely polluted. This session will examine how dam failures can be better prevented and addressed to avoid, minimise and mitigate these human rights risks. The session will draw lessons from recent dam failures in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Discussions will consider the role of different stakeholders, including companies, governments, civil society and investors in improving how failures are prevented and addressed, and will look towards recommendations targeted to these stakeholder groups.

Session objectives:
  1. to highlight the common and repeated issues that arise from major dam failures;
  2. to explore the role of companies, governments, civil society and investors in preventing and addressing dam failures; 
  3. and to propose recommendations for these key stakeholder groups.

Key discussion questions:
The session will explore questions such as the following:
  • How can companies be held accountable for compromising on the safety of construction and maintenance of dams?
  • How can governments be encouraged to provide stronger oversight in case of irresponsible corporate behaviour with regards to dams?
  • How can companies and governments be made more responsive to the concerns of local communities regarding the location, construction and safety of dams?
  • What can companies, governments and investors do to improve transparency on the safety of dams and the consequences of failure?
  • How can the provision of remedy for the victims of dam failure be improved?

Format of the session:
The session will start with brief interventions by the Panelists to summarise the key issues they are working on regarding dam failures, followed by a plenary discussion of these cases and issues. The session will then focus on recommendations and the roles to be played by different stakeholders in preventing dam failures and providing effective remedy in the case of failure. This will include a brief intervention by the moderator, representing an investor that is responsible for driving greater transparency in tailings dam management, followed by a round of Panelist interventions and a plenary discussion.

Background to the discussions:
Recent major dam failures have again brought worldwide attention to the huge human rights impacts of such events, and the need to improve how dams are planned, constructed and maintained. Yet a number of systemic issues persist (the most common being lack of transparency, lack of accountability on the part of companies, and lack of government oversight on corporate behaviour), making repeat disasters more likely to occur.

This session will bring together different groups from around the world working on the issue of dam failures.

The cases to be mentioned in the session include:
  • The Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy (XPXN) hydro dam failure in Lao PDR in 2018 that killed approximately 70 people and displaced about 5000 people;
  • The Solai dam disaster in Kenya in 2018, in which an irrigation dam on a private coffee estate overtopped, killing 47 people and displacing around 5000 people;
  • The Sonora tailings dam being constructed in Mexico by Grupo Mexico subsidiary, responsible for the worst mining spill in the history of Mexico in that same area in 2014;
  • The Mariana (Samarco) tailings dam failure in Brazil in 2015, which killed 19 people and resulted in the country's worst environmental disaster; and
  • The Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil in 2018, which killed about 270 people and destroyed an entire village.

The session will also highlight the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds.
Finally, the session will also draw on the results of the Responsible Mining Index (RMI) Report 2018 on tailings management and the expanded focus on transparent and responsible tailings management in the framework of the RMI Report 2020.

avatar for John Howchin

John Howchin

Secretary General, Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP Funds
I have worked with socially responsible investments and corporate social responsibility for over 20 years, cross all sectors and all around the world. Happy to talk about everything relevant.

avatar for Miguel Soto

Miguel Soto

Director de Vinculación Estratégica, Campañas de Incidencia y Relaciones Públicas, Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER)
Miguel Soto Treviño es director de vinculación estratégica y campañas de incidencia en Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER), una organización de la sociedad civil regional basada en México. PODER busca terminar con la Captura Corporativa... Read More →
avatar for Mary Kambo

Mary Kambo

Programme Advisor on Labour & Business and Human Rights, Kenya Human Rights Commission
With specialist knowledge on labour rights at the national, regional and international levels; having engaged in labour rights work for more than 10 years now.
avatar for Tamara Brezighello Hojaij

Tamara Brezighello Hojaij

Researcher in the Business and Human Rights Centre, FGV DIREITO SP Law School of São Paulo
Tamara Brezighello Hojaij is the Coordinator for Strategic Development at the Business and Human Rights Centre of Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV CeDHE) and currently a post graduate student at the University of São Paulo (USP). She is a lawyer and has expertise in business liability... Read More →
avatar for Pierre De Pasquale

Pierre De Pasquale

Head of Stakeholder Engagement, Responsible Mining Foundation, Switzerland
Pierre De Pasquale is the Head of Stakeholder Engagement at the Responsible Mining Foundation (RMF), which he joined in 2016. RMF is an independent research organisation that encourages continuous improvement in responsible mining across the industry by developing tools and frameworks... Read More →
avatar for Jiyoung Yun

Jiyoung Yun

Representative Coordinator / Policy & Advocacy Manager, Korean CSO Task Force team on XPXN dam failure / PEACEMOMO
YUN Jiyoung is the Policy & Advocacy Manager of PEACEMOMO which is a civil organization based in Seoul working on peace education. She is in charge of peace & development policy analysis. She has been working on monitoring development projects supported by the ODA & private sector... Read More →

Wednesday November 27, 2019 15:00 - 16:45 CET