The Brumadinho landslide occurred on 26 January 2019 in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. To date, around 60 bodies have been recovered from the Brumadinho landslide but almost 300 are still missing. Although bodies were recovered it proved very difficult to identify them. The current disaster happened just three years after the collapse of another tailings (waste materials) dam, near the town of Mariana, also in the state of Minas Gerais. It killed 19 people, forced many people to leave their homes and polluted local drinking water supplies. The Mariana Dam was owned by a joint venture between the Brazilian mining company Vale and BHP Billiton. Vale also owns the Brumadinho mine. Apparently no warning signal was sounded when the mine collapsed. Rescue operations were temporarily suspended when it was believed that another dam may be at risk of collapsing. Up to 24,000 people were set to be evacuated although officials decided that there was no imminent risk.
Government and company officials have do not know why the dam collapsed but have promised an enquiry. Vale has denied responsibility for the collapse. For those who survived the disaster, the deposits of mud irritate eyes and throats, due to the high pH levels in the iron ore waste. Locals have mentioned that there has been an increase in fish dying in the Paropeba River, due to high sediment levels and a lack of oxygen.
Brazil is no stranger to landslides but they are normally associated with the south-east of the country. For example, in 2011 floods and landslides killed over 250 people in Rio de Janeiro and 13 people in Sao Paulo state. The landslides were triggered by torrential rain – over 260 mm in less than 24 hours. Brazil often experiences heavy rains in January but the 2011 rains were exceptionally heavy. In 2010 more than 200 people were killed when landslides caused the Morro do B1umba favela in Niteroi to collapse.
For photos and videos of landslides around the world go to The Landslide Blog at https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/