At 12:28 on 25 January, 2019, Dam 1 of the Córrego do Feijão mine, containing 12,000,000 cubic meters of toxic mud, collapsed and spilled the mud over 9 kilometers to the city of Brumadinho (Minas Gerais) and then along the path of the Paraopeba River.
The Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) arrived to Brumadinho a few hours later to work with the communities affected in that city, in Córrego do Feijão, near-by municipalities such as Betim and Juatuba, and even Pompeu, 245 kilometers away from Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state.
In addition to the 272 causalities (270 people, two were pregnant), eleven of whom have not been found yet under the mud that still covers the area, the impacts of this landslide –which has become the largest environmental crime in Brazil- affect drinking water, and the physical and mental health of over a million people, as well as the livelihoods of thousands of artisanal fisherfolk and small farmers who are unable to fish or who can´t sell their products (milk, cheese, vegetable), due to the risks of contamination.
One year following the crime committed by Vale –which was recently charged by the Minas Gerais Public Prosecutor´s Office with “homicide and environmental crimes,” the MAB demanded “respect for the memory of those who died and integral reparation for the survivors, their families, and all the affected peoples, whose lives have been transformed.”
The lack of integral reparation, in addition to the halving of the emergency aid funds received by 93,000 out of the 108,000 affected peoples in 2019, is a “sign of the negligence of the mining company,” stated MAB in a press release issued on 25 January.
“Vale puts profits above life,” added the movement. They also denounce that while they pay small compensations, Vale received 7.2 billion reais from shareholders (international banks and foundations), “a sum much higher than that invested” in helping the affected peoples (6.5 billion reais).”
“Only the people can change this. We, the people affected by dams, know that it is pointless to wait for the good will of governments or Vale,” adds the press release.
The people affected by Vale demand: to continue looking for the eleven people still missing under the toxic mud spilled a year ago; to ensure that all affected peoples receive emergency aid, consisting of a minimum wage for adults, half a minimum wage for young people and ¼ minimum wage for children; to immediately validate the contracts of the independent technical advisory and to approve the National Plan of People Affected by Dams of Brazil, under discussion at the Federal Senate.
A ROSE, A PRAYER, A MARCH
At the entrance of Brumadinho city, on Saturday 25 there was a demonstration to commemorate the collapse of the tailings dam at Córrego do Feijão mine.
Upriver, in Córrego do Feijão, where Vale is carrying out its mining activities, three relatives of people who died in the catastrophe talked to the media, before hundreds of affected peoples and representatives from 15 countries who came to Brumadinho to express solidarity with their struggle.
Adilson Lopes Silva is 36 years old and he is an organic farmer. He was raised in Córrego do Feijão and he lived happily there until this crime occurred and he lost a family member, who “was found in pieces”. He denounced that his family was “expelled” since nobody will buy their products because they are “contaminated” and the company has done nothing to improve this situation.
Ana Paula de Santos Assis (33) lost her husband in the mud. She also denounced the abandonment in which this community has been left, with streets filled with holes, and where many houses are for sale and at risk of collapsing. Vale has turned it into a ghost town, but the people are still resisting.
Juliana Cardoso (38) read a letter:
“25 January 2019. 12:28. What happened?
We were buried by the mud and by the profits of a murderous company without a shred of humanity, which crushed and buried the workers of this community and so many others. Vale killed 270 and destroyed 600 people in Córrego do Feijão, they put an end to a way of life and broke families apart.
So much pain and sadness, it´s hard to believe that 365 days later we continue under the mud.
Today, 365 later, cruelty is stronger than ever. Out of 270 people, 11 have not been found yet.
Our community continues to be painfully massacred and abandoned by a company which turned our community into a cemetery, and every day we shake the mud off and go on, some days are better, others not so much, because we are consumed by sadness and saudade, saudade for our family members, our friends, our community, our lives.
Brumadinho is our Mariana, only at a larger scale. Vale turned Mariana into a lab for its cruel practices and now we wake up knowing that we, united, must struggle for justice, so that Mariana and Brumadinho never happen again.”
After reading the letter, the march arrived to the local church to give a Mass to the relatives and affected peoples and then, people marched to the mine to offer a rose to the dead.