The Brumadinho Dam Collapse
The town of Brumadinho in the south-east of Brazil has been left in a state of mourning, shock and sadness after a big dam collapsed in the past week causing a catastrophic mudslide flood and devasting the nearby village and community. The early reports have estimated that hundreds are still missing and indeed 84 have been confirmed as dead, showing the true scale of the disaster.
Following the collapse, many have been searching for their loved ones fearing the worst as the rescue effort continues. Newly elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro visited the area and assured locals that everything would be done in the rescue efforts as well as help being provided for the town to rebuild afterwards.
Now in the aftermath, questions have been asked of the company (Vale), and arrests have been made in relation to the dam collapse. Along with the arrests of Vale employees, Brazil’s environmental agency the Ibama has issued a 250m reais fine (£50m) and also frozen a sum of 5bn reais to help with the ongoing rescue efforts and also damage claims. In just weeks before the collapse, it has emerged the dam was rated as stable and low risk, which has prompted many to worry about other dams in Brazil. "If this so-called 'stable' dam is breaking, there is no guarantee whatsoever about the security of other dams in Brazil," said Luiz Jardim de Moraes Wanderley, a mining specialist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.
In the last few years, there have been other incidents of dams collapsing and many dying and being devastatingly affected by these. Indeed, in November 2015 another dam in the same state burst in the small village of Mariana, and it left 19 people dead. Action and health and safety legislation are seen as relaxed, and many are worried that with Bolsonaro as president no more progress will be made as he has been a critic in the past of environmental protection.
This tragedy again reminds us of how important it is to have effective control of companies that have environmental power. As Vale feels the force of questions as well as the anger and upset of the people of Brumadinho we must remember that safety and security of small villages across the mining world should come before any financial gain. They may escape with a hefty fine but what locals and everyone will want is real action taken to stop this tragedy happening again.