Energy efficiency, higher productivity and improved safety are the main benefits of a new Vale program. In 2010, the logistics department will invest approximately R$60 million to develop and implement innovative technologies in its heavy haul railroads – the Vitória-Minas (EFVM) and Carajas (EFC) railroads – and ports. These investments include new equipment to operate locomotives using remote control and ‘dynamic helpers,’ extra engines designed to couple with moving trains to help them up steep hills – never before used in Brazil.“We look for the best possible technology on the market to modernise our railroads and ports and, unusually for the industry, we adapt it to the specific characteristics of our heavy haul railroads,” explains Humberto Freitas, Vale’s Director of Logistics Operations.In order to operate locos by remote control, Vale is testing two sets of equipment on the Vitória-Minas Railroad (EFVM). The equipment allows drivers to leave the cab and carry out switching manoeuvres remotely, from a vantage point with a full view of the operation. The trials are taking place at the Engenheiro Bandeira and Ouro Branco rail yards in Minas Gerais, both on the EFVM. “Train drivers can manoeuvre without needing to talk on the radio with switchmen. The switching process is quicker,” explains Gustavo Mucci, General Manager for Rail Innovation and Development at Vale. By the end of the year, the company will have tested another two such systems on the same railroad. Total investment in the scheme is R$4.6 million.Vale’s has also invested R$9 million to develop an artificial intelligence system at Ponta da Madeira seaport in Sâo Luis, Maranhâo. The system enables all of the terminal’s stackers and reclaimers – used to move ore from the stockyard onto conveyor belts, which then take it to the ship – to be operated remotely. The system uses a software program allowing the machinery to be operated from the port’s control centre. Vale is the first company in Brazil to have equipped all the stackers and reclaimers at a port terminal with a remote control system.At the control centre, operators each have their own command terminal. As a result, when they need to operate a different machine, they only have to activate a command rather than switch to a different terminal. The terminals’ operational system and layout is the same as that adopted at major European ports such as Rotterdam. “Using cameras and sensors installed in the machines, operators can control the machines at a distance, from where they can see the stockyard as a whole,” says Freitas.
A new PAC report about Zimbabwe’s contested diamond fields is about many things, smuggling and frontier hucksterism, a scramble fuelled by raw economic desperation and unfathomable greed and heart-wrenching cases of government sponsored repression and human rights violations. It’s a story about political intrigue, ambition and a complete disregard for decency or the rule of law. It is also a story of how the Kimberley Process – the international initiative created to ensure that the trade in diamonds does not fund violence and civil war – has lost its way.Zimbabwe is not the only country failing to meet some or all of the basic requirements asked of diamond producing nations by the Kimberley Process (KP). But Zimbabwe sets itself apart from the others because of the government’s brazen defiance of universally agreed principles of humanity and good governance expected of adherents to the KP. As such Zimbabwe poses a serious crisis of credibility for the KP, whose impotence in the face of thuggery and illegality in Zimbabwe underscores a worrisome inability or unwillingness to enforce either the letter, or the spirit, of its founding mandate.There have been glimpses recently of a new strategy by Zimbabwe in advance of the June 2010 KP Intersessional Meeting in Tel-Aviv, where Zimbabwe’s compliance with the KP’s minimum requirements will again be reviewed. For months both Zimbabwe government officials and representatives of two new exploration companies, Mbada and Canadile, have gone through the motions of presenting themselves as legitimate partners in their efforts to mine diamonds in the Marange region. In May, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu pretended for once to recognize the authority of the KP by issuing an export ban on all Zimbabwean diamonds until the KP gives its blessing.“It is, of course, a deception and a charade,” explains Alan Martin, Research Director at Partnership Africa Canada. “It’s calculated to confuse and soften the criticism of some KP members as they congregate in Tel-Aviv in June. The Zanu-PF leadership has no intention of voluntarily changing its tune. Zimbabwe should be excluded from the KP.”On the eve of the publication of PAC’s report, the crisis in Zimbabwe’s diamond fields deepened. The special KP monitor sent to assess Zimbabwe’s compliance with the KP has produced a report extremely favourable to the Zimbabwe authorities, a report which is effectively a whitewash. At the same time, Farai Maguwu, the leading Zimbabwean human rights activist monitoring the abuses in the diamond fields perpetrated by Zimbabwe army and police units, has been arrested following a meeting with the KP monitor.“This is the latest in a series of attempts by the Zimbabwean authorities to intimidate human rights activists, and stop them from investigating and publicising ongoing abuses in the Marange diamond fields,” said Bernard Taylor, Executive Director of Partnership Africa Canada. “Such harassment is wholly unacceptable and must stop. Farai Maguwu must be freed unconditionally”.The PAC report, Diamonds and Clubs: The Militarized Control of Diamonds and Power in Zimbabwe, makes a series of recommendations to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe and in the KP. Recommendations include suspending Zimbabwe from the KP and creating a new, broader definition of ‘conflict diamonds’.