The Deadliest Mining Accident in the History of Brazil

February 15, 2019

In southeastern Brazil near the sight of a mine, miners from the company Vale were working just like every other day but then something unexpected happened. An avalanche of red mud began rolling down a hill toward the mining village, there was nothing in its way except a 280-foot tall dam. As the 2.5 billion gallons of sludge came hurtling down at the dam, it cracked and within seconds it fell leaving a path of seduction behind and a promising future of destruction ahead. It is estimated that the sludge-covered 12 million cubic meters of ground near the village and mine.  Now, a week later over 115 has already perished in the mud while another 248 people are missing. This is the deadliest mining accident in the history in Brazil, but this was not expected. Three years prior, the dam in place before it burst as well as killing 19 people. Then this dam was rebuilt again, but as we all know it was not strong enough.

 

The mudslide hit the town of Brumadinho, which in the state of Minas Gerais. The dam was built and owned by the iron mining giant, Vale which promised about $13,000 to each of the families who lost somebody in the mudslide. Even though this seems like a complete accident that could not be prevented there is some controversy. Even though this is a problem for all of Brazil, this is being put under a lot of attention because of the Vale Dam collapsing and the complete and utter chaos that it brought. Government Expecters are assigned to expected about 800 mines all across Brazil, but they often operate without the right tools necessary to make sure the structures are safe and study.  Even though Vale was under fire for supposedly not having the correct investigators make sure that the dam was safe, the company released that they had all of the needed investigations included two structural investigations and independent edits and audits. There is an ongoing investigation including five suspects, three of which are employed by Vale. one is part of a German engineering company, whose job was to do the routine checks of the dam's stability All five of the suspects were arrested, and Vale promised to support the investigation and give all of their resources to help the police.

Vale reported that there were no dangerous levels of metal in the mud, this can lead to heavy metal poisoning. The mud also caused widespread damage, not only did it destroy houses but it contaminated the Paraopeba River. The river “turned dark amber from the mud and dead fish were rising to the surface,” because of this villagers could not fish or drink the water destroying one of their biggest food sources. Because of this, more than 700 mining dams are now being more thoroughly looked at for potential risk.  

A question might float to the top of your head: did Vale have a warning system for emergencies like this? The worst part about this, at least for Vale, was that there was a warning system in place but when the time came for it to do its job it failed. The reason for this is that even though it acknowledged the emergency, the warning had to be manually triggered for it to send the signal. The mudslide was so quick that because the operators were working in the mine, by the time they knew what was happening they were dead. And when they died there was nobody there to alert the village of what was to come. Worst of all Vale never alerted or trained the village and it's occupants in case of a very plausible and likely mudslide. Many people died in the dam collapse, but just like many people still lost in the mud, the full story has not yet been uncovered.

 

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