The mining dam collapse that killed at least 169 in Brazil last month, with 141 still missing, was by no means an isolated incident. There’ve been at least 50 dam failures globally in just the last decade, according to one tally, with 10 considered major.
For years the industry has depended on these dams to contain the sometimes toxic, often dangerous, waste from mining. But the latest failure, which could end up as the deadliest in more than half a century, has the industry struggling to contain the consequences.
On Feb. 19, BHP Group Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie, citing the need for a “nuclear level of safety,” said his company would welcome an international and independent body to oversee the integrity of all the dams.
Mining CEOs will meet in Miami next week, he said, to consider the problem. It won’t be an easy task. While many of the spills have been in the news, they range across so many countries and their causes vary so widely that they aren’t often considered as a whole.
What data exist are spotty at best, collected by a jumble of mining and engineering organizations, environmental watchdogs, and academics.