Brazilian Mine Tailings Dam Breaks, Killing Dozens

Date: Jan 29, 2019

The confirmed death toll rose to 60 on Monday, with just over 300 people still listed as missing after a mining waste dam at Vale SA’s Corrego do Feijao mine collapsed on Friday. The resulting mudslide buried homes and mining facilities in the town of Brumadinho in Brazil’s southeastern state of Minas Gerais on the Paraopeba River.

Vale SA is a Brazilian multinational metals and mining corporation. Vale is the largest producer of iron ore and nickel in the world, and the company also produces manganese, ferroalloys, copper, bauxite, potash, kaolin, and cobalt.

The plant facilities, the loading terminal, the maintenance workshops and the administrative buildings of the Córrego de Feijão mine were damaged, and there were blockages to the road access from the mine to the Córrego do Feijão village, the company said in a statement.

Minas Gerais state civil defense agency spokesman Flavio Godinho told reporters he expected the death toll to rise. Most of those considered missing are presumed dead, officials said.

More than a dozen helicopters flew over the mudslide area on Saturday to survey the disaster and help search and rescue teams.

The cause of the dam breach remains unclear.

Avimar de Melo Barcelos, the mayor of Brumadinho, criticized Vale for being “careless and incompetent.” He blamed the mining company for the tragedy and the state of Minas Gerais for poor oversight, and he pledged to fine Vale 100 million reais (US$26.5 million).

The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) fined Vale R$ 250 million, for the social and environmental catastrophe that occurred last Friday in Brumadinho.

Damage to the environment resulting from the rupture of the dam’s Córrego do Feijão mine has resulted in five infraction notices in the amount of R$ 50 million each, the maximum set forth inthe Environmental Crimes Law.

Vale Chief Executive Officer Fabio Schvartsman said in a television interview on Sunday that the disaster happened even after the company followed experts’ safety recommendations.

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