Brumadinho – Brazil’s worst workplace accident

The collapse of the B1 dam of the Córrego do Feijão Mine in Brumadinho, a city located about 60 kilometers from Belo Horizonte, killed 272 people in the early afternoon of January 25, 2019. It was the largest work accident in the country, causing the death of 130 employees and 121 outsourced workers, in addition to 2 unborn children and 19 community residents and tourists.

12.7 million cubic meters of mud that belonged to the mining Vale S.A. were spilt, dragging everything ahead of it, destroying families, stories, memories and dreams. Images of the tsunami of waste from an iron ore mine caused horror and bewilderment around the world and the scars left on society have never healed. Despite all the revolt and indignation caused by the biggest accident at work in the history of Brazil, victims’ relatives remain steadfast in their search for justice. 

Military personnel from the Minas Gerais Fire Department are still searching the region of the tragedy, where six victims remain missing, according to the official count. In addition to residents’ homes, the mud hit part of the mine’s offices, including a cafeteria during lunchtime, along with farms, inns, and roads downstream. The tailings also reached the Paraopeba River, which drastically affected the local biodiversity.

The tireless work to find the ‘jewels of Brumadinho’, a city of just over 41 million inhabitants, has no deadline,as well as the struggle of all those who do not want this sad story to be repeated. After all, the damage caused by the break of the dam goes far beyond those classified as “materials”.

The B1 dam contained  waste from iron ore mine, and it was built following the “upstream” model, when liquids are drained so that the sludge hardens. The walls were made of layers upon layers stacked, resembling the structure of a staircase, which made it more susceptible to cracks in case of infiltration. This was the cheapest and fastest way to get licensed, but also the most dangerous and risky. On that day, the emergency alarm designed to give people time to escape in the event of an accident did not work. Until today, friends and citizens are waiting for the justice alarm to be sounded loud and clear.