Tailings dam failure in Brazil

22 January 2007

Streets and houses in the towns of Mirai and Muriae - in the south-western Brazilian state of Minas Gerais bordering the state of Rio de Janeiro - were partially buried several metres deep in mud. Plants and animals in the area also suffered serious damage, said the state of Rio's Environment Minister. Furthermore, the water supply of several towns was interrupted as the mudslide affected the rivers that they draw on. The state authorities distributed food, clothing and mattresses, and disposed the deployment of cistern-trucks to supply water to the population.

This failure follows a rupture which occured at the same tailings dam in March 2006. A government spokesperson said the government has decided to shut the mine at least until a containment facility can be constructed.

Heavy rains caused the dam to break, releasing 2Mm3 of mud into the Muriae river. However, state environmental regulators said no toxic waste was contained in the mud, but indicated that the mining company will not be allowed to rebuild the dam and will have to pay a 50M real (US$23.25M) fine.

Mineracao Rio Pombo Cataguases is owned by industrial group Industrias Quimicas Cataguases. The bauxite mine produces 1.15 million tonnes a year of refractory bauxite.




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