UCL Faculty of Laws


PhD candidate Lara Blecher presents video on mining and human rights to UN Forum

13 December 2023

UCL Laws PhD candidate Lara Blecher recently presented a video on mining and human rights to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

Lara Blecher headshot

On Monday 27th November, Lara Blecher, a PhD candidate at UCL Laws, presented a video on mining and human rights at a session of the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

Lara works for PIRC Ltd., a proxy voting advisory that is also the research and engagement partner to the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF). The video was produced as part of the LAPFF’s stakeholder engagement visit to Brazil, where there have been significant mining disasters involving tailing dams in Brumadinho and Mariana. The video is available to watch here.

The report of the visit to Brazil was referenced extensively in a UK Parliamentary debate on the Mariana dam disaster this year in which opposition MPs called for the government to pass legislation that would hold UK companies to account for their human rights violations abroad.

The 2015 Mariana mining dam disaster is one of the most significant environmental disasters of recent years. It occurred when the Fundão tailings dam in Brazil burst, unleashing 60m cubic metres of toxic waste. The waste led to the deaths of 19 people and made thousands homeless. The dam was co-owned by BHP and Brazilian iron ore producer Vale.

Reports say lawyers running litigation again BHP have used the LAPFF report to inform their cases. There are also reports that investors are using the document to inform their engagement with BHP and Vale.

Lara co-authored another LAPFF mining and human rights report with Robert McCorquodale, the former Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL). Robert is a barrister at Brick Court Chambers and is currently a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Lara worked with Robert at BIICL as a Research Fellow on business and human rights.

Lara commented:

The work with communities affected by mining companies stems from PIRC’s long tradition of bringing the worker voice into discussions around corporate governance. LAPFF sees a need to engage directly with affected communities both because it is the right thing to do, and because failure to respect human rights and the environment can have catastrophic effects financially for communities, companies, and investors, as we have seen in Brumadinho and Mariana”.

This work has significantly informed LAPFF responses to recent UN Working Group consultations on Investors, ESG, and Human Rights and Extractive Industries, Just Transition, and Human Rights.