Blog Entry

Open Letter to Equinox Gold and Brazilian Authorities

Viviana Herrera

Latin America Program Coordinator

We, Brazilian and international civil society organizations, would like to express our great concern and indignation about the situation currently affecting 1,500 families of the Aurizona district, located in the municipality of Godofredo Viana, in the Amazon region of the Brazilian state of Maranhão.

Since March 25, 2021, more than 4,000 people in the community have been without access to a regular and adequate water supply due to the collapse of a dam at the Mineração Aurizona S.A. (MASA) gold mine, owned by the Canadian mining company Equinox Gold. In the extremely critical moment which Brazil is suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of access to drinking water worsens an already dire situation for families.

Although the company continues to insist that the water it is distributing is clean, the affected families report it presents traces of mud and a strong odour. Contact with this water has generated health problems such as skin rashes in children, youths, and adults of the region.

Through this open letter, we call on the mining company, Equinox Gold, but also the authorities at the municipal, state, and national levels to establish a permanent channel of dialogue with the community to work on an agenda that addresses the emergency, including historical claims by the population affected by the Aurizona mine.

We request Equinox and governmental entities take the following actions:

To Equinox Gold:

  • Immediately restore the supply of drinking water to all households and businesses in Aurizona
  • Guarantee an emergency income for all families in Aurizona, in the amount of a minimum wage per adult, half a salary for young people, and a third for children, following the example of the compensation to families affected by the mine spill in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais
  • Make public all the data available to date and also periodically on the quality of the water that supplies the community
  • Negotiate and pay a fair indemnisation to people that rely on fishing, who not only lost their fishing equipment but who are currently prevented from carrying out this activity due to water contamination
  • Negotiate and pay fair compensation to small businesses for the damages caused by the interruption of the supply of drinking water
  • Install cell phone towers in the district of Aurizona, so that those affected can have greater access to communication and dialogue channels with the various institutions
  • Provide information to those affected, to preliminary technical reports on the analysis of the region's water and all social and environmental impacts, as well as on the real risks of further dam ruptures of Empresa Mineração Aurizona S/A.
  • Guarantee independent technical advisory services and a short, medium, and long-term social diagnosis on the impacts and consequences of human rights violations suffered by the affected population, to be done by a trusted organization chosen by the affected families

To the government of the state of Maranhão:

  • Monitor and ensure the fulfillment of the commitments assumed by the mining company Equinox Gold
  • Appoint a medical team from the state government to assist the families affected by the breach, taking into account that the consequences for the population's health are diverse
  • Conduct technical inspections by the State Civil Defence in houses with cracks and fissures as a result of the daily mining explosions;
  • Ensure the security of and human rights defenders in the community
  • Follow up with the Military Police command on the circumstances of the illegal arrest of two human rights defenders on April 25
  • Investigate complaints about the criminalization of local leaders
  • Publish laboratory analyzes of water throughout the region, carried out by the State Secretariat for the Environment (SEMA) and the Environmental Sanitation Company of the State of Maranhão (CAEMA)
  • Expand control over the mining company's operating areas, as there are signs that it aims to expand its exploration, getting closer to the population every day
  • Use  the amounts obtained from the fines to Equinox (around 2 million Canadian dollars so far), as well as the other fines, for the implementation of a social and productive restructuring plan for the affected families of Aurizona which is  presented/elaborated by the affected themselves

To the municipal government:

  • Supervise, monitor and ensure compliance with the commitments made by the mining company
  • Press the mining company to respond to all the affected communities' demands
  • Maintain full transparency regarding the application of the funds collected by the municipality from the Financial Compensation for Exploitation of Mineral Resources (CFEM) for the benefit of the community

To the National Mining Agency (ANM) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio)

  • Investigate the rupture of the Lagoa do Pirocaua dam and tighten supervision and monitoring of the activities of the mining company, given the risk of collapse of the piles of waste rock and the possible occurrence of other dam collapses;
  • Make available the reports related to the water collected laboratory analysis from April 1st, in loco, by ICMbio.

Most of the claims described are urgent, but they also require an extensive agenda of measures by the company and public policies since they directly affect the human, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the families affected by Equinox Gold.

We, civil society organizations in Brazil and other countries, reiterate our commitment to continue with actions to raise awareness and pressure the company and the authorities to take the necessary measures to respect, protect, and promote the right of the affected families to a dignified life.


Brazilian organizations:

  1. Actiecomité Utrecht em Defesa da Democracia no Brasil
  3. Articulação do Semiárido Brasileiro – ASA Maranhão
  4. Associação dos Empregados da Eletrobras – AEEL
  5. Central Única dos Trabalhadores – CUT/MA
  6. Centro de Defesa Ferreira de Sousa
  7. Coletivo de Mulheres Silva Cantanhede
  8. Coletivo Maya
  9. Coletivo por um Brasil Democrático (CPBD-LA)
  10. Comissão Pastoral da Terra – CPT
  11. Conselho Pastoral dos Pescadores – CPP
  12. Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social – CEVES
  13. Cooperativa de Trabalho de Prestação de Serviços para o Desenvolvimento Rural Sustentável da Agricultura Familiar – COOTAP
  14. Coordenação Nacional de Articulação de Quilombos (CONAQ)
  15. CSP Conlutas Maranhão
  16. Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee
  17. Deputada Federal Áurea Carolina (PSOL/MG)
  18. Deputada Federal Talíria Petrone (PSOL/RJ)
  19. Deputado Federal Célio Moura – PT/TO
  20. Deputado Federal João Daniel (PT-SE)
  21. Deputado Federal Padre João – PT/MG
  22. Deputado Federal Patrus Ananias (PT/MG)
  23. Deputado Federal Rogério Correia – PT/MG
  24. Federação Interestadual de Sindicatos de Engenheiros (Fisenge)
  25. Federação Única dos Petroleiros – FUP
  26. Frente Internacional Brasileira Contra o golpe e pela Democracia
  27. Grupo de Pesquisa e Extensão Política, Economia, Mineração, Ambiente e Sociedade – PoEMAS
  28. Justiça nos Trilhos
  29. Koinonia Presença Ecumênica e Serviço
  30. Laboratory State, Labour, Territory and a Nature / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
  31. Levante Popular da Juventude
  32. Marcha Mundial de Mulheres – MMM
  33. Membro da FIBRA Frente Internacional Brasileira contra o Golpe e pela Democracia
  34. Membro da Confederação internacional por um mercado mundial mais justo Munique Alemanha
  35. Movimento Camponês Popular – MCP
  36. Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas – MMC
  37. Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais (MPP)
  38. Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores – MPA
  39. Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores – MPA Piauí
  40. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST
  41. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST Piauí
  42. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST Maranhão
  43. Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB
  44. Movimento dos Atingidos pela Base de Alcântara – MABe
  45. Movimento dos Pescadores e Pescadoras do Maranhão
  46. Movimento Pela Soberania Popular na Mineração – MAM
  47. Pastoral da Juventude Rural – PJR
  48. Plataforma Operária e Camponesa da Água e Energia – POCAE
  49. Resistência Brasileira na Suécia
  50. Revoluciona o Mundo
  51. Sindicato dos Administradores do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – SINAERJ.
  52. Sindicato dos Bancários do Maranhão
  53. Sindicato dos Engenheiros da Bahia – SENGE Bahia
  54. Sindicato dos Petroleiros de Duque de Caxias/R.J – Sindipetro Caxias
  55. União Estadual por Moradia Popular – MA

International organizations:

  1. ALMA – Africa y Latinoamérica en Mallorca
  2. Bündnis Gerechter Welthandel
  3. Coletivo Amsterdam pela Democracia
  4. Collectif Alerte France Brésil / MD18
  5. Coletivo Brasil-Québec
  6. Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
  7. Carrefour d’Animation et de Participation à un Monde Ouvert (CAPMO)
  8. Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN)
  9. Développement et Paix
  10. Earthworks
  11. Global Justice Clinic NYU Law*
  12. Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Program
  13. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  14. Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
  15. MiningWatch Canada
  16. Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG)
  17. Public Service Alliance of Canada – Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada
  18. The Gaia Foundation
  19. US Network for Democracy in Brazil

*This communication does not purport to represent the institutional views, if any, of New York University.