Sunday, October 11, 2009

Letter to the World Health Organization, June 2009

Letter to the World Health Organization, June 2009

To Dr Margaret Chan

Director-General of WHO

World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27

Telephone: + 41 22 791 21 11
Facsimile (fax): + 41 22 791 31 11

Göttingen, June 24th, 2009


I am writing to You in your capacity as Director-General of the World Health Organization to ask for your immediate action to prevent an imminent arsenic catastrophe in Brazil.

Canadian Kinross Gold Corporation plans to build a gigantic tailings impoundment on top of three important springs of an aquifer which constitutes the ultimate affordable resource of public water supply to Paracatu, a 90,000 inhabitants, historical town in northwestern Minas Gerais state, 200 km S. of Brasilia-DF.

The 1.2 million tons of arsenic to be released by the expansion of the Morro do Ouro mine by Kinross will sum up with some 0.3 million tons of arsenic that have been already disposed in the first tailings impoundment. This unbelievable amount of 1.5 million tons of arsenic is a dreadful hazard that must be avoided.

As already shown by several reports, including the 2001 United Nations synthesis report on arsenic in drinking water (quoted in the attached fact sheet, along with other evidence), a substancial part of that arsenic shall slowly and persistently spread over a large area in the São Francisco river basin, causing arsenicosis and cancer to millions of people during the coming years, decades and centuries.

The São Francisco river and its basin play a key role to the development of Brazil. The São Francisco is the only river that crosses the semi-arid Northeast part of the country without drying up. Its waters shall convey life and wealth, not death and plight. Lots of national and international money and time, and entire lives of dedicated people have been invested in the development of the region. Now all these efforts are being jeopardized by a single mining project that threatens the region with mass poisoning.

Madam, we appeal to your relevant and decided acting in this issue. It is necessary to take urgent steps. Owing to suspensions of the preliminary verdicts in two public lawsuits, we expect that Kinross will be given an installation permit for the new tailings impoundment at any time. Failure or delay to action will cause irreversible damage and will set the stage for a catastrophe.

Yours Sincerely,

Sergio Ulhoa Dani,, D.Sc.

President of the Acangau Foundation


Mrs. Mirta Roses Periago

Regional Office of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel: (202) 974-3000 Fax: (202) 974-3663

Eng. Diego Victoria Mejía

PAHO/WHO representative in Brazil

OPAS - Setor de Embaixadas Norte, Lote 19 , Brasília-DF Brasil 70800-400
Tel: +55 61 3251 9595 Fax: +55 61 3251 9591


. Fact Sheet

. Suggestion of a letter to be sent by WHO to Minas Gerais State Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. Jose Carlos Carvalho. This letter could be forwarded to other Brazilian Government authorities as well, further actions by WHO notwithstanding.

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