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Brazil: After collapse of Samarco dams, NGO says community had reported safety risks for years; company emergency plan required by prosecutor was never prepared

“Vale and BHP Billiton causes tragedy in Brazil-Negligence resulted in the disruption of two dams controlled by two global mining companies Vale and BHP Biliton in the region of Mariana, state of Minas Gerais”, 9 November 2015

…[On]…November 5th,…the dam of Fundão, owned by Samarco Mineração…broke up and released a sea of ​​mud…[and]…The flood of mud reached another dam..., Santarém, which also broke…[. Bento Rodrigues, t]he district where 620 people lived…[was]…affected by the flood and had 90% of…[its]…homes…destroyed…The mud went down reaching more villages on the way…Authorities estimate…that 2000 people have be[en]…affected; it does not include all the municipalities that have its water supply…[and river]…contaminated,…and death of fish and other animals…There are controversial numbers regarding deaths and missing…According to the mining workers, the waste…[contains]…iron, heavy metals as mercurium and arsenic, which are highly toxic…[T]he president of Samarco said that the waste is inert and does not harm humans. The people affected…disagree…[:]...many have reported malaise, dizziness, headache, pain…The prosecutor of Minas Gerais has appointed five prosecutors to investigate the causes of the disaster and responsibility…The company is responsible for construction, maintenance and guarantee to operate safely. Therefore, any occurring is the mining's responsibility…[The mining companies]…refused to invest the minimum security necessary to prevent a catastrophe…In 2013 the State Prosecutor commissioned a study by experts who concluded that weaknesses in the dam could lead to its collapse. Therefore, the prosecution demanded Samarco..[to]…build…an emergency plan and alert. This was never done. Several people affected from Bento Rodrigues reported that for years the community had been making complaints about the insecurity of dams…For now, what can be seen is a delay to the care of those affected. There was no evacuation and contingency plan. The company was slow to take…people affected to hotels, what happened only after the Public Prosecutor's order to transfer the people…The Movement of People Affected by Dams…[is]…following the work of…authorities in the rescue and care of victims, and the organizational work of the affected families…

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