|As the Articulacao Internacional dos Antingidos e Atingidas pela Vale put it it on 25 January 2019, "Na tarde de hoje (25/01/2019), duas barragens localizadas na comunidade Córrego do Feijão, em Brumadinho, região metropolitana de Belo Horizonte (MG), romperam. Ainda não temos informações sobre o número de vítimas, mas, segundo os bombeiros, cerca de 200 pessoas estão desaparecidas. A dimensão completa deste desastre ainda não pode ser precisada.". On Jan. 31, Carta Capital wrote: "Os 358 assassinados são vítimas de uma justiça seletiva que até agora não prendeu os executivos da Vale e que já haviam matado em Mariana. E os assassinatos foram cometidos com requintes de crueldade. Mataram sem dar chance de defesa, e por asfixia, enterraram vivas as pessoas na lama. Pense o seguinte, os executivos da Vale por suas ações e omissões, por ausência de fiscalização adequada, enterraram vivas 358 pessoas. Pense que você, por sua ação ou omissão, por ausência de fiscalização adequada, permite que uma barragem de rejeitos tóxicos de sua empresa rompa e mate 358 pessoas. ". |
In this foretold tragedy of the failure of the Vale company’s tailings dam on 25 January 2019 in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, it appears that there were over 350 people killed, most of them employees of the company who were working or having lunch in buildings downstream of the tottering dam. Vale killed its own people. The amount of tailings released was smaller than in the Samarco tragedy (in Mariana, MG, in 2015) but the number of people directly killed has been larger. It was indeed criminally irresponsible to have Vale employees working and eating daily downstream of the tailings dam. There had been numerous calls by civil society groups including MAB to definitively stop the Còrrego do Feijão mine, not to give any more concessions in the area, and to secure the dam against failure. Such calls were dismissed by the state administration, by the Vale company (which learnt nothing from the Samarco tragedy of 2015).
The Corrego do Feijao mine is one of four in Vale's Paraopeba complex, which includes two processing plants. The complex produced 26 million tonnes of iron ore in 2017, or about 7 per cent of Vale's output, with Corrego do Feijao accounting for 7.8 million tonnes, according to the company's website.
Vale CEO Fabio Schvartman  said he did not know what caused the collapse. About 300 employees were working when it happened. "The principal victims were our own workers," Mr Schartzman told a news conference on Friday 25 January evening. He said a restaurant was buried by the mud at lunchtime. Another dam administered by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton collapsed in 2015 in the city of Mariana in Minas Gerais state, resulting in 19 deaths and forcing hundreds from their homes. Mr Schvartsman nonchalantly said what happened in Brumadinho was "a human tragedy much larger than the tragedy of Mariana, but probably the environmental damage will be less.".
Among those missing were over many workers who were having lunch in an administrative area when it was hit by a torrent of sludge and water, said a fire brigade spokesman, Lt Pedro Aihara. According to The Guardian , “Our main worry now is to quickly find out where the missing people are,” Aihara said on GloboNews cable television channel. He later told TV Record that an upscale guesthouse called Pousada Nova Estância had been completely swept away along with 38 staff and guests.
The owner of the Pousada Nova Estancia and his family were killed. He was Marcio Mascarenhas who (as it became known) has posted a strong complaint against the mine in facebook one year before -
According to Clara Paiva Izidoro, a spokeperson for the local movement Águas de Casa Branca, a district of Brumadinho, the residents were aware of the risk. She said: "já havia entre os moradores um temor de que um desastre dessa natureza ocorresse. Nós vamos ter um impacto imenso. Nós já vínhamos reconhecendo que várias barragens andavam com risco e isso tem relação com abalos sísmicos pequenos que estão acontecendo na região. Isso significa que, se houve um sismo nessa região, que tem muitas barragens, ainda podemos ter outros eventos. Então, esta é uma área de muito risco." . . Her organization complained also against mining in nearby Jangada.
Sources such as Brasil de Fato and the Folha de Sao Paulo have explained how on 11 December 2018 the residents opposed the authorization for further mining in the area granted by the government of Minas Gerais to the companies Minerações Brasileiras Reunidas S.A. and Vale in the municipalities of Brumadinho e Sarzedo. The IBAMA representative abstained on that occasion, and he mentioned the risk of dam failure. One member voted against . The Movimento das Águas de Casa Branca had carried out many actions and complaints against the granting of mining permissions, submitting petitions signed by tens of thousands. They took part in public audiences. They were regularly dismissed by the authorities. One of their arguments was the threat from tailings dams, another was the encroachment of mining on the Paque Estadual of Serra do Rola Moça.
The expansion of Vale's activities in Brumadinho was approved at this meeting on 11 December 2018 through a faster environmental licensing (in a single phase, instead of the usual three regarding the prior license, installation and operation). This was only possible because the Secretary of Environment of Minas Gerais, Germano Luiz Gomes Vieira, signed in December 2017 the "Normative Resolution 217", which changed the risk criteria of some dams, aiming to reduce the environmental licensing stages in the State of Minas Gerais. The dams at Córrego do Feijão had its risk lowered from 6 (highest risk) to 4 (lower risk) [10,12]. Despite the Samarco tragedy in 2015, environmentalists argue that environmental licensing in Minas Gerais has been carried out very quickly and always favorable to mining companies . In September 2018, the Movimento pelas Serras e Águas de Minas denounced a conflict of interest of the Secretary, because his brother, Giovanni Abel Gomes Vieira, is an employee of the Anglo American mining company.
There are other threatening tailing dams in MG, including one in Conceição do Mato Dentro belonging to Anglo American. , in Congonhas and in many other places. Researchers and the local population live in fear because of the growth of the tailings dam of Anglo American .
A legislative project to make regulation of tailings dams stricter in Minas Gerais after the Samarco (Mariana) disaster of 2015 had been stopped for three years in the legislative assembly, and was unlikely to make further progress under the pro-mining policies on the administration of Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. . The legislative project had been approved in the plenary and sent to the commissions of Administração and Minas and Energia, presided then by deputy João Vitor Xavier (PSDB). A new text was proposed with participation of the public prosecutor (Ministério Público), Ibama, NGOs and residents, providing for public audiences on dams with directly affected residents, and forbidding new tailing dams in inhabited area or areas with water sources. This was supported by 56 thousand signatures but it got nowhere. The legislative text also provided for an insurance fund and forbid the method of increasing tailings dams by "alteamento" (as in the case of Corrego do Feijao, also Conceiçao do Mato, da Anglo American), allowing the dam to go upwards when it is filled. This legislative proposal was vetoed.