May 1, 2009

A student team from SIPA’s Workshop in Development Practice received this year’s Leous Parry Award for Progressive Sustainability for its work on promoting social dialogue on the impacts of mining company operations in Pará, Brazil. The award was created by two SIPA alumni, J.P. Leous and Neal Parry, to support interdisciplinary approaches to protecting theenvironment and promoting sustainable development.

The student team, Noelia Cornejo, Claire Kells, Tania Ortiz de Zuniga, Stacey Roen and Brandon Thompson, partnered with the Instituto Observatório Social (IOS) and Centro de Estudos das Negociações Internacionais (CAENI) to study the mining of bauxite, from which aluminum is derived. Their faculty advisor, Professor Scott Martin, helped to develop the project.

Bauxite mining has brought economic benefits to Pará, Brazil, but concerns surfaced that the mining operations are being conducted in an unsustainable manner and without reciprocal benefits for local communities. To better understand the risks associated with bauxite mining, IOS and CAENI conducted initial studies on the environmental impacts and labor conditions in five mining operations in Pará, including those operated by Albras and Alunorte (which are majority-owned by Vale, Brazil’s largest mining company), MRN and Alcoa. They found that the mining companies were complying with local labor laws and international labor standards, but that environmental risks were being addressed more slowly, and that there was a lack of effective social dialogue among local stakeholders across the aluminum value chain.

IOS asked the SIPA team to conduct further research on the aluminum value chain in Pará, including mapping relevant stakeholders and exploring opportunities for more effective social dialogue. The team carried out extensive interviews in São Paulo and Pará with Vale and other mining companies, local unions and their federal counterpart CUT, government authorities and civil society groups. This initial research revealed a complex web of relations intertwined with political, historical and cultural factors. In its final report, the team hopes to provide IOS and CAENI with a detailed analysis of the aluminum value chain in Pará, a map of key stakeholders across the value chain, and recommendations for promoting more effective social dialogue to address environmental and social concerns around bauxite mining and aluminum processing.

The team will present its results along with other workshop teams on April 30 and May 1, International Affairs Building, Room 1512.