Update: Number killed in Brazil dam breach reaches 99

Article by Amanda Jasi

Andre Penner/AP/Shutterstock
An aerial view shows the area of a collapsed dam in Brumadinho, Brazil

AFTER the fatal collapse of a Vale mine tailings dam in Brazil, 99 people have been reported dead, 57 of whom have been identified. 257 people remain missing. The collapse occurred on 25 January.

Following the collapse, three Vale employees and two engineers from German company Tüv Süd have been arrested and will be temporarily detained for questioning. Tüv Süd conducted a “periodic review” of the dam in July 2018, and a “regular inspection” in September 2018, the Financial Times reports.

The dam which collapsed was built using the upstream method, which an expert described as “the worst” option “because of the potential likelihood of failure”. In 2016, after the Samarco dam collapse, Vale decided to decommission all 19 of its upstream dams. Since then only nine have been completely decommissioned. In the wake of the collapse, Vale has announced that it will decommission the remaining dams, and that it will halt operations where the dams are located to enable quick and safe decommissioning. The work is expected to take 3 years, and cost R$5bn (US$1.4bn).

In addition to previously reported financial repercussions a judge has decided to freeze R$1.6bn of Vale’s funds. This is to ensure payments to victims and their families, as well as payments towards other administrative measures. Vale has also decided to offer R$100,000 to families with dead or missing members. In addition, Vale is to compensate the municipality of Brumadinho, the area where the dam was located.

Planned measures to contain the escaped tailings include building dikes to contain sludge, dredging and containing material from contaminated areas for disposal, and installing barriers around the nearby Paraopeba river. Vale has also installed 45 monitoring points along the river.

To date Vale has established two Extraordinary Independent Consulting Committees. One is to follow up on the measures taken to support the victims and the recovery of the affected area, and the other is to investigate the cause of the dam collapse.

Vale has said that “it will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities, and it will continue to support the investigations in order to determine the facts.”

It is also offering psychological and medical support to those affected.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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