From Brazil to Bulgaria: the giants we ignore at our peril – by Marco Ranocchiari (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso – February 9, 2021)

25 January 2019 had seemed like a normal enough day for the iron mine workers in Brumadinho, in Brazil’s Minas Gerais province. Many were taking their lunch break when, at 12:28 surveillance cameras showed the almost 90 metre high earthen dam instantaneously pulverised.

In just a few seconds 12 million cubic metres of water and waste from mineral processing submerged everything within seven kilometres: trees, homes, animals, railway tracks.

Looking at drone-footage of the devastation, millions of people recognised, perhaps for the first time in decades, the dark side of a sector fundamental to our era but nearly invisible: mining.

Two years later, the families of the nearly 270 victims, many of whom were employed by the same mining facilities, still want justice. While the judiciary tries to ascertain criminal responsibility and discussions of compensation are underway, the technical reports are already available.

These reports leave no doubt: the Brumadinho collapse was not a natural disaster, but a man-made disaster, which could have been predicted and avoided. This disaster is perfectly in line with the mining cycle. It is the outcome of decades of poor land management, forgetfulness, and unheeded warnings.

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