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 / commondreams.org
Nov 16, 2015
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 ·
1

Support Films For Action

Films For Action empowers citizens with the information they need to help create a more just, sustainable, and democratic society.

We receive no government or corporate funding and rely on our supporters to keep us going. ​

Donate today

 

Join Team Transition

Create an account on Films For Action and join our growing community of people who want to change the world!

Add videos, articles and more. Rate member content. Our library is powered by you.

Trending Today
How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’
George Lakey5,130 views today ·
What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?
Katherine Reynolds Lewis1,757 views today ·
Don’t Be Scared About the End of Capitalism—Be Excited to Build What Comes Next
Jason Hickel and Martin Kirk1,451 views today ·
Radical Municipalism: The Future We Deserve
Debbie Bookchin1,103 views today ·
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn977 views today ·
This Facebook Comment About the UK Election Is Going Viral
Chris Renwick885 views today ·
The Silencing of Dissent
Chris Hedges877 views today ·
How to Hug the Man That Killed Your Wife
Vegar Svanemyr868 views today ·
Paramedic's Response to "Burger Flippers" Making an Equal $15/Hour is Beautiful
Craig Carilli806 views today ·
Load More
Join us on Facebook
Ruptured Dams Engulf Brazilian Village in Toxic Mine Waste