This blog post isn’t going to follow up on any specific research article put more follow some current events and update you, because sometimes it’s important to just take a look and be aware of the world around you, something I trust most of you do anyways. Brazil experienced a few tragedies last year, some with world changing effects, one being the outbreak of the Zika virus, but another is what I’ll be focusing on is this post. For those of you who don’t know, a dam in the southeast corner of Brazil burst open last November. This has been one most tragic dam failures of the last few years, the worst in the country’s entire history for sure, resulting in 19 deaths, 14 were workers and 5 were from the community, 16 people severely injured, hundreds of people displaced from their homes, and countless environmental concerns, short term and long term effects. The repercussions of this dam failure will be felt for years to come.
Brazil is the largest producer of iron ore in the world, and Samarco was a joint venture of BHP Billiton and Vale, two of the top three mining corporations. On November 5th 2015 the tailings dam and the water dam at the Samarco mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, breached and roughly 60 million cubic meters of iron ore waste products burst into the surrounding environment. The resulting mudslide went flooding forward, causing destruction by destroying small villages, completely wiping hundreds of people out of the area fleeing for their lives, not to mention depositing all those iron waste byproducts into the rivers obliterating any and all present ecosystems. Samarco responded well, with sending instant relief aid. They implemented distribution of clean water bottles, setting people up in hotels in nearby towns, setting up water and meals distribution sites, sending hundreds of emergency kits, containing mattresses, linen, blankets, towels, snacks, water, and basic hygiene toiletries. Samarco has since agreed to to pay approximately $4.4 billion in damages, over the next three years to repair the community’s loss and as well as the environment.
The Rio Doce river, now contains iron ore waste byproducts, such as cadmium, mercury, lead, copper, zinc, and arsenic, which 16 days after the dam breach pours into the Atlantic Ocean, a total of over 500km. The toxic mud couldn’t be stopped as it made its way down the river, asphyxiating most, if not all, fish populations, and giving very little room to restore these populations in the future, as it will take years to see any success in reclamation, as you can imagine. The fishing industries were all destroyed for this massive area containing hundreds of thousands of people, now looking for other work far from home. Local economies are surely in trouble when people’s livelihoods get washed away so quickly. Water quality assessments were done in December, the reports say that the tailings material is non-toxic, the mud doing more damage in its movement than its toxicity, so there is some hope. (http://www.investegate.co.uk/bhp-billiton-plc–blt-/rns/update–samarco/201512220700048128J/)
The future of this tragic event is yet to be determined for the people and the environment or Brazil. But shortly after the dam failure, investigations were launched into finding the cause of the accident. Reports surfaced from as early as 2013, and people confessed to having said that there were reported cracks in the dam, recommending action to be taken before and a preventable accident like this would happen. Too bad they didn’t listen to those reports back then! Unfortunately iron mining is not as profitable as other metals which means they try to make money where they can, and Brazil being a developing country, the time it takes to get anything done is incredibly slow, (seriously, it takes forever), so they were just too slow to take action in repairing the dam. Just following the reports surfacing, the Brazilian government took to suing the corporation for the incredible damage they’ve done, finding that they had been negligent, well, that’s a little obvious. In February, six of the mine’s executives, including the president, were all charged with homicide.
For now, Brazil is looking terrible, and who knows when we will see reclamation from this horrific event.
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