Fatal deluge signals wider tailings-dam safety risk


Searching for bodies after Paraopeba dam collapse. (Photo by AP Images)

It has been distressing enough for Brazilians to learn of the second devastating tailings-dam break to befall their country in just over three years. Now they have to contemplate the ample potential for more. The first rupture, in 2015, involved a Minas Gerais state iron-ore tailings dam owned by the companies Vale and BHP Group. It unleashed a 62-million-cubic-meter deluge of sludge that killed 19 people and caused a massive environmental disaster, snuffing out aquatic life along 370 miles (595 kms) of the Doce River. Then this past Jan. 25, another tailings dam burst at Paraopeba, a Minas Gerais iron-ore mining complex fully owned by Vale. The outpouring of sludge—as in the case of the 2015 spill, a mix of iron ore tailings, clay, sand and mud—was smaller, but the human toll far higher. The 12-million-cubic-meter torrent buried a... [Log in to read more]

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