November 2015 – BRAZIL – The rescue mission continued through the night, including with the help of specially-trained sniffer dogs teams; the crews’ work was, however, been hampered by heavy rain and poor cellular reception, a civil defense spokesperson in Mariana told Mashable. “We would like to express our solidarity to all affected by this accident at Samarco’s tailings dams in the state of Minas Gerais,” said Murilo Ferreira, CEO and president of Vale. The thick red mud surge engulfed cars and lorries, and destroyed homes. Vale, the world’s biggest iron-ore producer, and BHP, the largest mining company, each own a 50 percent stake in Belo Horizonte-based Samarco.
Besides leveling everything in its path, the avalanche caused “enormous environmental damage,” an investigator with the Minas Gerais state prosecutor’s office, Carlos Ferreira Pinto, said. The dam released nearly 60 million cubic metres of ochre sludge and mining waste. The cause of the burst, Samarco said, is still unknown. The flood felt like an earthquake as it rushed through Bento Rodrigues, said Andrew Oliveira, who was working there at the time, in an interview with Globo TV.
The burst leads to devastating the nearby town with mudslides located about 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Rio de Janeiro it destroyed hundreds of homes in a nearby village on Thursday. Residents living in an area downhill from the dam were told to evacuate to higher ground. Though finding survivors is growing less likely, officials said they did not rule it out. The mayor of Mariana, the nearest city in the state of Minas Gerais, said his town’s official toll now stands at one dead and 12 missing, all of them mine workers – revising an earlier toll of 13 missing. A few deaths have been reported and dozens are said to be injured.
Analysts at Clarksons Platou Securities said on Friday that the likelihood of a lengthy stoppage at the Germano mine, which accounts for about one-fifth of seaborne pellet market, could lift iron ore prices. Samarco says the waste is inert and consists mostly of silica (sand) from the iron ore processing and presents “no chemical that is harmful to health.” Ricardo Vescovi also insisted Brazilian law does not require any emergency alarm for dam failures and that the authorities had approved the company’s emergency response plan.
Resident Joaquim Teofilo Dutra said a loud noise was the first sign residents had that something was wrong. “When I went outside, there were already people running uphill saying the dam burst,” recalled resident Joaquim Dutra. –News Telegraph