Hundreds of people are dead and feared missing by the collapse of the Vale dam on January 25th in the city of Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The accident at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine has released waves of toxic sludge, swamping the mining complex. The mine was granted expansion by the state in December 2018 despite locals and environmentalist opposition who argued that the dam presented safety risks.
Juliano Bueno de Araújo, coordinator of 350.org campaigns in Latin America said: “We’re facing the worst environmental disaster in decades, all the toxic sludge is going towards the rivers, including the São Francisco River – one of the most important in Brazil. In addition to the damage done to the environment, there is a huge amount of damage to the population directly; deaths, homelessness and extreme damage to health, all due to the lack of supervision and maintenance, as well as the impunity of the company in other mega-accidents.”
A similar accident occurred in the same state of Minas Gerais three years ago, in the city of Mariana, at a dam also belonging to Vale. 19 people died and until today the causes of the collapse have not been confirmed, despite the Attorney General’s Office pointing out failures in the inspection of the dam since permission was granted to build it in 2007.
Accidents like this are set to increase with the Bolsonaro government proposals to establish “environmental self-certification” — in which the process will be the responsibility of landowners and businesses. “If today licensing is considered a ‘handmade’ procedure by the government, and with low quality standards, imagine what it’ll be like when it becomes an automatic process – letting the landowner to register himself”, added Juliano.
350.org’s team in Brazil are on the ground in support of the affected communities. “Our mission is to save lives”, says the environmental analyst of the team, Renan Andrade.
Our deepest condolences and sympathies go out to all the people that have lost their relatives, specially our colleague Juliano Bueno de Araújo and his family.