A MV Stellar Banner ship with almost 300 thousand tons of iron ore is stuck on the Brazilian coast, just over 10 kilometers from the coast. There is a great risk of sinking, as its hull is on the verge of breaking. In addition to ore, there is an immense fuel load, with 3,500 tons of residual oil and 140 tons of distilled oil. It can be one of the greatest environmental disasters in Brazilian history.
The case would be tragic in isolation; however, environmental disasters in Brazil have been practically unceasing in recent years. The ship, interestingly, serves the Vale Company, the same company that was responsible for the disasters in Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2018), both in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais and which resulted in the death of almost 300 people. In both cases, tailings dams broke in the areas explored by mining, destroying two historic cities of Brazil, which have not yet been restored. The victims’ families remain homeless and without compensation – Vale has never been legally held responsible for the tragedies.
To fully understand these cases and the whole controversy surrounding the company Vale, we have to analyze a little of Brazilian political history. “Vale” was the name adopted by the company after its privatization. Before, it was called “Vale do Rio Doce” and was a state-owned mining company, founded in the 1940s by former president Getúlio Vargas, who saw it as an important stage in Brazilian national development. The decades had passed and the political rivalry between the nationalist defenders of Getúlio Vargas and the liberals has been intensified. The getulists wanted to preserve the public companies created by the ex-president to develop the country; liberals wanted to privatize them and subordinate the country economically to international economic elites. In 2007, the privatization of the Vale do Rio Doce was finally concluded, and the company came to be called “Vale”, being now a publicly traded company, operating worldwide and with shares traded on the world’s main Stock Exchanges.
It is precisely from the moment of its privatization, that Vale begins to drop the quality of its services, ceasing to be a central point of the Brazilian economy to become a truly murderous and mercenary company.