Claims v Facts, a response from Kinross
Kinross Paracatu would like to correct a number of inaccuracies which appeared in a heavily biased pair of articles in El Pais Brazil. Unfortunately this coverage has repeated scientifically baseless claims made by a small group of opponents of the mine.
Claim: The results of a recent study by CETEM highlight the existence of high levels of arsenic in the water, the air and in the soil of the city.
Fact: The CETEM study’s main, most scientifically relevant conclusion – based on extensive testing of hair, blood and urine samples – is that there are low arsenic concentrations in the people and human exposure is well within acceptable levels. This is backed up by an overwhelming amount of scientific, peer-reviewed research by respected institutes and academics. Moreover, while there were isolated incidences of higher levels of arsenic, these were not generalized.
We would add that the CETEM study was commissioned, conducted, and published completely independently of Kinross – who had no involvement or control over the study .
Claim: There are high arsenic concentrations in certain rivers and creeks in and around Paracatu and this is due to Kinross’ mining activities.
Fact: While true that certain rivers and creeks tested were shown to have higher than normal arsenic levels, the presence of arsenic in these locations reflects nearly 300 years of informal mining in the area and has nothing to do with Kinross. Nevertheless, Kinross has been heavily involved in the reclamation efforts and we are pleased to see a material improvement in arsenic concentrations since we started these efforts in collaboration with MOVER, a leading not-for-profit group.
Claim: There is no safe level for arsenic.
Fact: Arsensic is naturally present everywhere and people in general are likely to be exposed to low levels of the element. The World Health Organization and leading environmental agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and CONAMA in Brazil clearly define safe benchmark levels for arsenic in water, air, and other media. Scientists broadly, and EPA in particular, do not accept the argument that “there is no safe level of arsenic.”
Claim: The tailings dams used by Kinross are unstable and leak toxins into local water sources.
Fact: The tailings in the Santo Antonio and Eustaquio storage facilities are not toxic and the dams are not unstable. The tailings are safely stored in compliance with all relevant Brazilian legislation and global standards of best practice, including annual independent, third-party review by engineering specialists. Monitoring downstream from our operations indicates arsenic levels are well within acceptable safe levels.
Claim: Residents who live in proximity to the mine have their quality of life affected by dust and noise from the mine’s activities.
Fact: The Company strives to mitigate the impacts of its operations and has instituted a comprehensive set of measures to reduce dust and noise. These include water spraying to dampen down dust and sound barriers to minimize noise. We take this obligation very seriously and have established a 24-hour hotline to respond to community concerns in real-time. As a result, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of complaints regarding dust, with zero in 2014 and none thus far in 2015.
Claim: Kinross regularly tests its employees for arsenic but does not divulge the results of this testing to the employees or to the health authorities.
Fact: We do test our employees regularly and the results are shared with individuals and relevant government authorities. The results were also published in the CETEM study. The results show that all employees are currently within safe limits. Our prime concern at all times is the safety and health of our employees.
Claim: Kinross acquired Quilombola lands surreptitiously and applied pressure to residents to sell.
Fact: Any and all properties acquired by Kinross in Paracatu were purchased legally and included detailed negotiations with each affected family in accordance with the International Financial Corporation’s guidelines for voluntary resettlement. As a first step, we agreed on the criteria for determining the value of the properties, the procedures for defining the options for relocation, and the method for implementing the relocation. The goal in every case was to offer the residents improved living conditions, and, through a negotiation process, to arrive at a mutually agreed-on location for the new home. All 14 family groups who were exposed to the impacts of the dam works accepted the relocation offer, and by the end of 2011, all were living in their new houses. The Company conducted follow-up visits to the families in the spring of 2012, and found that the majority of the families reported that they were satisfied with their new homes, and in many cases, viewed them as providing a significant improvement in the quality of life over their previous living arrangements.
It is important to note that El Pais did not request an interview with Kinross while the journalist was in Paracatu, despite the story being about our operations. This is very disappointing as this practice does not reflect the basics of fair, objective and balanced journalism.
The journalist decided arbitrarily what the ‘truth’ and ‘story’ were without speaking to us and based his article on the same dubious claims that two mining opponents have made to every other media outlet. These sensationalist claims make for a good story but not an accurate one.
The result of this sensationalist and inaccurate coverage is damaging not only to the reputation of Kinross as a responsible mining company, but also extremely damaging to the city of Paracatu and its economy, which depends in large part on farming.