On Jan. 25, 2019, a large dam full of mining waste from the Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine owned by Vale SA ruptured and sent a mudslide downstream toward Brumadinho, Brazil, killing at least 270 people. Two years later, some question if the mining industry has done enough to avert further disasters.
Vale has faced billions in costs due to the incident, and several employees and contractors were charged with homicide, including former Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman. While new standards have been introduced, many people still fear other tailings dams could fail, putting communities around the world at risk.
Maria Teresa Corujo is with Janeiro Marrom, or Brown January, a campaign working to raise awareness about the disaster. Corujo described training drills with sirens in Brazilian communities near tailings dams, so that community members could rehearse running in case of another failure.
“These are in areas that are so close that there is no time to run to escape,” Corujo said in an interview, through a Portuguese interpreter. “As a result, the communities, the populations that live close to tailings dams, they live in a permanent state of fear.”
Several other tailings dam disasters preceded Brumadinho, including one at the Samarco iron ore mine in Mariana, Brazil, that killed 19 people in 2015. The Samarco Mineração SA operating company is a 50/50 joint venture between Vale and BHP Group.