Ruptured Dams Engulf Brazilian Village in Toxic Mine Waste
More than a dozen are feared dead, with scores missing, after a tailings owned by some of the biggest mining companies in the world burst
By Sarah Lazare /
The Bento Rodrigues district is pictured covered with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst in Mariana, Brazil, November 6, 2015. (Photo: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

The Bento Rodrigues district is pictured covered with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst in Mariana, Brazil, November 6, 2015. (Photo: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

At least two dams ruptured at a Brazilian open-pit mine on Thursday, sending a torrent of toxic sludge and wastewater pouring into a nearby village—submerging vehicles, sweeping away homes, and leaving over a dozen people feared dead.

Located in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, the mine is run by Samarco, a joint project between the Australian company BHP Billiton—the world's biggest mining company—and the Brazilian company Vale—the largest iron ore producer. The structures that failed were tailings dams, which hold toxic chemicals and other waste from the mining process.

The structural failure sent the waste pouring into the small town of Bento Rodrigues, located four miles downhill from the mine. Video footage shows homes and buildings ripped apart and submerged in mud, trees leveled, and a truck dangling upside down from a cliff-side.

"When I went outside there were already people running uphill saying the dam burst," resident Joaquim Teofilo Dutra told the Associated Press. "All I did was close my house and run to the top."

As of Friday, the exact number of confirmed dead was unknown. A spokesperson for firefighters assisting with rescue efforts confirmed that at least two people were killed and 30 wounded. "In reality there are a lot more, but we can't confirm any more than that," firefighter Adão Severino Junior in the city of Mariana told Reuters. "We don't even know that we'll find everybody."

According to some reports, up to 100 people are unaccounted for.

Hundreds of survivors took shelter in a gymnasium near Mariana or at area hotels, as rescue efforts continued into Friday.

Meanwhile, some have raised concerns that the the toxic sludge could contaminate the Gualaxo do Norte river that provides water to Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.5 million people.

This is not the first massive and deadly dam rupture. A separate dam in northeastern Brazil burst in 2009, killing at least 24 people.

Indigenous, poor, and working class communities across Brazil have raised repeated alarm about the harmful impact of large dams and mining projects on human and environmental health.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 12,917 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 11,682 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 7,318 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 5,248 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 3,471 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 2,455 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 2,427 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,980 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,957 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,419 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,301 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 1,018 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 787 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 782 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 683 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 500 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 418 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 405 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 357 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 309 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Ruptured Dams Engulf Brazilian Village in Toxic Mine Waste