The collapse of the iron ore tailings dam in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, has already claimed 84 lives, making it the deadliest environmental disaster of its type in the world in over 30 years. With 276 still missing and the chances of finding any more survivors becoming increasingly remote, Friday’s tragedy could even overtake the notorious 1985 Val di Stava dam collapse in Italy, which resulted in a death toll of 268.
Besides the human tragedy, the Brumadinho dam failure is also set to cause a catastrophic environmental impact on the surrounding area. With millions of cubic meters of fast-moving sludge ravaging the nearby Paraopeba river, the damage caused by the catastrophe could take years to overcome.
What has caused much indignation among the Brazilian people is that this is not the first time such a disaster has happened; it is not even the first time it has happened this decade. People have been quick to draw parallels between Brumadinho and the 2015 dam failure in Mariana, some 80 kilometers away. The link, besides the obvious, is that both dams were managed (at least in part) by Brazil’s largest mining company, Vale.