Brazil Mine Samarco Mineração

DOCUMENTS: Brazilian Company Knew Failed Dam Was at Risk

Brazil’s TV Globo recently reported that it had obtained documents which detail how the mining firm Samarco Mineração SA was aware of compromised safety at the Mariana dam in Minas Gerais state for at least two years before the dam’s recent collapse. Samarco is jointly owned by Australia’s BHP Billiton and Brazil’s Vale.

In November 2015, Truth In Media reported on the collapse of two dams in Brazil which interrupted the flow of drinking water for an estimated 250,000 people and damaged the local ecosystem. On November 5th, two dams burst at an iron ore mine operated by Samarco. The disaster caused the deaths of 17 people and another 500 displaced from their homes. The dams are known as tailing dams which are designed to hold water and waste from the iron ore mine.

The Associated Press reported:

“TV Globo, the head of Brazil’s biggest media group, also said that Minas Gerais investigators believe that Samarco neglected key documents to obtain the dam’s license. The company denies that.

The TV-led media conglomerate added that the investigation by the Minas Gerais attorney general’s office showed that the first concerns about the mine’s safety appeared in 2007. Samarco managed to get the environmental license from the state government even though it failed to provide all necessary documents to operate the mine.”

[RELATED: Massive Environmental Damage in Brazil Following Collapse of Two Dams]

Brazil’s federal police force has also indicted Samarco, Vale and seven of their executives for the dam burst. Samarco’s CEO was indicted, as well as geology experts and an engineer who said the dam was safe only 4 months before the burst.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that a Samarco engineer claims the company was informed about structural problems a year before the incident. The WSJ reported that engineer Joaquim Pimenta de Ávila, a consultant who worked on the dam, found a crack in the company’s Fundão waste-storage facility in September 2014. Pimenta de Ávila says he warned Samarco to increase monitoring and reinforce the dam

Samarco denied receiving any such warning.

“Cracks or surges can occur in any dam,” Samarco told the Journal. “The operator’s duty is to report them, evaluate them and treat them adequately, with reports, technical recommendations and contracted projects, as Samarco always did.”