Brumadinho dam disaster

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Brumadinho dam disaster
Brumadinho, Minas Gerais (47021723582).jpg
Date25 January 2019 (2019-01-25)
LocationCórrego do Feijão iron ore mine, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Coordinates20°07′11″S 44°07′17″W / 20.11972°S 44.12139°W / -20.11972; -44.12139Coordinates: 20°07′11″S 44°07′17″W / 20.11972°S 44.12139°W / -20.11972; -44.12139
TypeDam failure

The Brumadinho dam disaster occurred on 25 January 2019 when Dam I, a tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) east of Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil, suffered a catastrophic failure.[1] The dam is owned by Vale, the same company that was involved in the 2015 Mariana dam disaster.[2] The dam released a mudflow that advanced through the mine's offices, including a cafeteria during lunchtime, along with houses, farms, inns and roads downstream.[3][4][5][6] At least 248 people died as a result of the collapse.[7]


Bento Rodrigues Village right after the similar Mariana dam disaster of 2015

The Brumadinho dam failure happened three years and two months after the Mariana dam disaster, which killed 19 people and destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues. The Mariana disaster is considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazil's history and is still under investigation.[8]

Experts say that Brazil's weak regulatory structures and regulatory gaps allowed the dam's failure.[9] Three years after the Mariana dam collapse, the companies involved in that environmental disaster have paid only 3.4% of R$785 million in fines.[9]

At the time of the Mariana dam disaster in November 2015, the department in charge of inspecting mining operations in the state of Minas Gerais, the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM), was worried about the retirement of another 40% of public employees over the course of the next two years.[10]

According to the national registry of the National Mining Agency, the Córrego do Feijão dam, built in 1976 by the Ferteco Mineração (acquired by Vale in 2001), was classified as a small structure with low risk of high potential damage. In a statement, the State Department of Environment and Sustainable Development reported that the venture was duly licensed. In December 2018, Vale obtained a license to reuse waste from the dam (about 11.7 million cubic meters) and to close down activities. The dam had not received tailings since 2014 and, according to the company, underwent bi-weekly field inspections.[11]


Satellite image of Brumadinho before and after the dam collapse
Schematic cross section showing design of failed dam
Path of mudflow after dam failure

The collapse occurred just after noon. The mud hit the mine's administrative area, where hundreds of the mine's employees were having lunch, as well as the "Vila Ferteco", a small community about 1 kilometre from the mine. At 3:50 p.m., the mud reached the Paraopeba River, the region's main river, which supplies water to one third of the Greater Belo Horizonte region.[12][13]

The Inhotim Institute, the largest open-air museum in the world, which is located in Brumadinho, was evacuated as a precaution.[14]

On 27 January, around 5:30 a.m., sirens were sounded amid fears for the stability of the mine's adjacent Dam VI, a process water reservoir, where increased water levels were detected. Due to the risk, about 24,000 residents from several districts of Brumadinho were evacuated, including the city's downtown area. Rescue operations were suspended for several hours.[15][13][16]



As of 10 July 2019, 248 people were confirmed dead, and 22 were considered missing.[7] At a press conference, Vale's president, Fabio Schvartsman, stated that most of the victims are Vale's employees. Three locomotives and 132 wagons were buried in the mine plant area below the dam collapse. Four railwaymen are missing. The mud also struck and destroyed two sections of railway bridge and about 100 metres of railway track.[17]

Economic impact[edit]

As a result of the disaster, on 28 January the Vale S.A. stock price fell 24%, losing 71.3 billion reais (US$19 billion) in market capitalization, the biggest single day loss in the history of the Brazilian stock market, surpassing May 2018, when Petrobrás lost more than R$47 billion in market value. At the end of January 28, Vale's debt was downgraded to a rating of BBB- by Fitch Ratings.[18]

In the city of Brumadinho, many agricultural areas were affected or totally destroyed. The local livestock industry suffered damages, mainly from loss of animals such as cattle and poultry. The local market was also impacted due to the damages, with some stores and establishments remaining closed for a few days.[citation needed]


Iron ore railway bridge destroyed by mudflow, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) downstream from collapsed dam

The dam failure released around 12 million cubic meters of tailings. According to experts, the metals in the tailings will likely be incorporated into the river's soil and could go on to affect the region's whole ecosystem. According to environmentalists, the waste stream could also reach the São Francisco River which – in addition to Minas Gerais – passes through four other Brazilian states and the dams of two hydroelectric plants: Retiro Baixo and Três Marias.

The National Water Agency (ANA) stated that the tailings could pollute over 300 kilometres of river. Vale's president, Fabio Schvartsman, said that the dam had been inactive since 2015 and that the material should not be moving too much. "I believe that the environmental risk, in this case, will be much lower than that of Mariana", he said.[19]


The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, sent three ministers to follow the rescue efforts.[20] The Governor of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema, announced the formation of a task force to rescue the victims with dozens of firefighters reallocated to Brumadinho.[21]

In a sign of solidarity with the Brazilian government, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu sent a search and rescue group of 130 civil defense specialists and navy divers to Brumadinho to aid Brazilian specialists in finding possible survivors.[22][23][24]

Brazilian authorities issued arrest warrants for five employees believed to be connected with the dam collapse, leading to two senior managers of the mine and another Vale employee being arrested, alongside two engineers from German company TÜV Süd contracted to inspect the dam.[25][26][27]

The local mining union's treasurer had called the disaster "premeditated" as there were continuous and long-standing complaints and warnings about the structural integrity of the dam. Vale has denied these charges and stated the mine was up-to-date with the latest standards.[26]

One day after the failure, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources announced a R$250 million fine on the Vale company.[28]

Brazilian judicial authorities have also frozen US$3 billion of Vale's assets, saying real estate and vehicles would be seized if the company could not come up with the money.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schvartsman, Fabio (25 January 2019). "Announcement about Brumadinho breach dam" (in Portuguese). Vale. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Barragem de rejeitos da Vale se rompe e causa destruição em Brumadinho (MG)" [Vale's Tailing dam collapses and causes destruction in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais]. Correio Braziliense (in Portuguese). 25 January 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  3. ^ Phillips, Dom (6 February 2019). "'That's going to burst': Brazilian dam workers say they warned of disaster". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Clarifications regarding Dam I of the Córrego do Feijão Mine". Vale. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Barragem da Vale se rompe em Brumadinho, na Grande BH" [Vale's tailings dam collapses in Brumadinho, in Belo Horizonte metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte]. G1 (in Portuguese). 26 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil: Vale mine chief resigns". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b Brazil's Vale ordered to pay compensation for dam disaster
  8. ^ "Tragédia em Brumadinho acontece três anos após desastre ambiental em Mariana". Jornal Nacional. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Empresas envolvidas em desastres ambientais quitaram só 3,4% de R$ 785 milhões em multas". O Globo (in Portuguese). 6 May 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Minas tem apenas quatro fiscais para vistoriar barragens e não há previsão de concurso". Estado de Minas (in Portuguese). 19 November 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Brumadinho: O que se sabe sobre o rompimento de barragem que matou ao menos 58 pessoas em MG". BBC Brasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Tragédia em Brumadinho: 58 mortes confirmadas, 19 corpos identificados, lista tem 305 pessoas sem contato; SIGA". G1 (in Portuguese). Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Brazil dam rescue resumes after second barrier ruled safe", Sky.
  14. ^ Rebello, Aiuri; Ramalhoso, Wellington. "Barragem se rompe em Brumadinho e atinge casas; vítimas são levadas a BH" [Dam collapses in Brumadinho and hits homes; victims are taken to Belo Horizonte]. UOL (in Portuguese). Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Brazil search resumes after new dam scare". 27 January 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2019 – via
  16. ^ "Vale updates information on the dam breach in Brumadinho". Vale. 27 January 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Tragédia em Brumadinho:Lista da Vale de pessoas não encontradas". G1 (in Portuguese). Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 26 January 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  18. ^ Laier, Paula (28 January 2019). "Vale stock plunges after Brazil disaster; $19 billion in market value lost". Reuters. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  19. ^ "Técnicos avaliam extensão do dano ambiental de rompimento da barragem". Jornal Nacional (in Portuguese). 26 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  20. ^ Ernesto, Marcelo. "Em mensagem, Bolsonaro lamenta rompimento de barragem em Brumadinho" [In a message, Bolsonaro mourned the tailing dam collapse in Brumadinho]. Estado de Minas (in Portuguese). Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  21. ^ da Fonseca, Marcelo. "Governo de Minas cria força-tarefa para acompanhar barragem de Brumadinho" [Minas Gerais government creates task-force to monitor Brumadinho's dam]. Correio Braziliense (in Portuguese). Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  22. ^ Oliveira, Eliane (27 January 2019). "Militares de Israel que ajudarão nas buscas em Brumadinho embarcam para o Brasil". O Globo (in Portuguese).
  23. ^ Roberto, Jose. "Israel posta imagens dos militares que ajudarão em Brumadinho". (in Portuguese).
  24. ^ staff, T. O. I.; AP. "Israeli rescue team arrives in Brazil as dam collapse toll hits 58". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Brazil dam disaster death toll mounts as arrests warrants issued". 29 January 2019.
  26. ^ a b Jan 29, Thomson Reuters · Posted:; January 29, 2019 10:25 AM ET | Last Updated:. "3 Brazil mining company employees, 2 contractors arrested in dam disaster | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 30 January 2019.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  27. ^ Silva De Sousa, Marcelo; Jeantet , Diane (31 January 2019). "Brazilian environmental group tests water after dam collapse". Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  28. ^ "Ibama multa Vale em R$ 250 milhões por tragédia em Brumadinho". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  29. ^ "New alert as hundreds feared dead in Brazil dam disaster". São Paulo. Agence France-Presse. 27 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.

External links[edit]