Rescuers are searching for some 300 missing people after a tailings dam breached at the Feijao iron ore mine near Brumadinho in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state.
The dam collapse at 13:00 hrs local time (15:00 GMT) on Friday (25 January) caused a huge torrent off sludge that surged through a large area burying homes and the mine’s cafeteria during workers’ lunchtime.
Officials said that 50 people had been rescued and 34 people had been confirmed as dead, as of 22:00 hrs GMT today (26 January). State governor Romeu Zema said there was little hope of finding many more people alive.
Thus the human toll of this tragedy is already far greater than the Samarco dam collapses in Mariana in November 2015, which killed 19 people and released some 60M cu metres of toxic waste, making it Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.
Mine operator Vale said that the breached dam at Feijao had been in the process of being decommissioned and had a capacity of 12M cu metres.
Whilst stating that it is too early to predict the cause of the breach, CEO Fabio Schvartsman defended Vale’s position. “Vale is a very serious company,” he said. “We have made every effort, from the point of view of making sure our dams are in the best possible condition. We use all types of technology, especially after the Mariana accident. The list of actions that has to be undertaken is endless to ensure the safety and stability of these dams.
“Unfortunately, this breach happened. This is inexcusable, but even so, I still apologise to all those affected and to the whole of Brazil.”
(Article updated 22:00 hrs GMT 26 January 2018)