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Brazil dam victims: 'The tragedy does not end when the mud stops running'

28/1/19 - Joint statement by community activists in Brazil

Image: Brazil activists in London last November

After another dam collapse in Brazil, affected communities ask why lessons were not learned, and demand justice for the victims.

Friday 25th of January saw history repeat itself. A Vale tailings dam in Brumadinho, Brazil, holding iron ore waste burst, releasing a torrent of mud into the surrounding area. So far, hundreds are missing and at least 57 are dead.

In the same state, in November 2015, a dam - also owned by Vale, along with BHP Billiton – collapsed, flooding our homes and villages with toxic mud. Nineteen people were killed, hundreds were displaced, and our water was polluted. The mud spread along 826 kilometres of the Doce River Basin.

We have lived this crime for the last three years. As our communities were not given access to emergency aid, as our families and loved ones were not resettled to decent housing, as our livelihoods remain shattered, and as the 22 people and four companies indicted for aggravated homicide, personal injury and environmental crimes go unpunished.

That these disasters are so similar - including a common company, Vale - worsens our pain. Where are the lessons learned to prevent such devastation? The dam collapse on Friday serves to highlight the pursuit of profit by companies with little regard for us, the communities and workers.

Our state is facing an economic crisis, hostage to extractive industries. But true development cannot take place without environmental, cultural and social preservation. In search of dialogue, last month we sent a request for a meeting with, Governor Romeu Zema, recently elected to represent our state; the response is still pending. The governor, on the other hand, has already met with representatives of various mining companies.

Now, the companies and our governments must work rapidly to ensure every victim of Friday’s disaster has all the help they need, and that our tragedies won’t be repeated. Every person affected by these dam collapses deserves comprehensive compensation and resettlement from the companies, and this will only happen if affected communities are listened to.

We make ourselves available to anyone in the government or business willing to act to improve the safety of these dam and assist affected communities.

To the victims of the disaster at Brumadinho, we send our solidarity because we know more than anyone the struggle that lies ahead. The tragedy does not end when the mud stops running.

Ninguém larga a mão de ninguém! (No-one let go of anyone’s hand!)

Fundão Dam Commission of Affected People (Comissão de Atingidos pela Barragem de Fundão-CABF)
Communities affected by the Dam of Fundão from Mariana MG
Brazilian Caritas Minas Gerais (Cáritas Brasileira Regional Minas Gerais)

Read more on the Brumadinho disaster here.