It's no longer possible to rely 100% on ads to keep our organization going. If you believe in why Films For Action exists, we hope you'll become a supporter on Patreon. A monthly donation of $1, $3, $5 or more per month will really help!
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
Featured Films
The Staging Post: Courageous People Never Give Up! (2017)
61 min The Staging Post follows two Afghan Hazara refugees, Muzafar and Khadim. Stuck in Indonesia after Australia 'stopped the boats' and facing many years in limbo, they built a community and started the school which inspired a refugee education revolution. A real-life...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our...
Within Reach (2013)
87 min Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than looking in a traditional neighborhood, they...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min 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 century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document firsthand our modern industrial world and the...
The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction; financial instability and unemployment. There...
Trending Today


Love Films For Action? Become a Patron!

Our Patreon campaign is now live! We hope you'll be among the first to support this new direction for Films For Action. The goal is to go 100% ad-free by next year and become 100% member supported. A monthly pledge of just $1 -5 per month x a few thousand awesome people will ensure we can continue our work and grow our impact across the world. Click here to join.

Join us on Facebook
Ruptured Dams Engulf Brazilian Village in Toxic Mine Waste