Mining company to pay in Brazil disaster

Brazilian mining company Samarco has agreed to pay at least $260 million in compensation for the Nov. 11 collapse of two dams it used to hold waste water from iron ore, which caused an avalanche of mud to inundate nearby villages in Minas Gerais state. Eleven people were killed and 12 are missing, presumed dead. The village of Bento Rodrigues was totally destroyed, with more than 500 people left homeless. Residents are being temporarily housed in hotels in the city of Mariana. Some 250,000 local residents are also left without drinking water. The mud is still being tested for potential toxins from the mine. In imposing the fine, Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA called the disaster "the worst mining accident in Brazil's history." Operations at the facility remain suspended, with Samarca admitting that two more dams at the site are "at risk of collapsing."

Samarco is owned by mining giants Vale of Brazil and Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton. After the disaster, protesters spread mud on the facade of the Vale headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. (BBC News, Nov. 17; BBC News, Nov. 16; Reuters, Nov. 11)

  1. Mine waste reaches Brazilian coast

    A huge brown plume of mud and mining waste spread out along the coast of the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo on Nov. 23, a little over two weeks after the collapse of a dam at an iron ore mine. According to projections from Brazil's environment ministry, the tide is expected to spread along 5.5-mile (9-km) stretch of the coastline, threatening the Comboios nature reserve, a nesting site for the endangered leatherback turtle.

    "I don't know what to say. It's awful; it's a calamity," Joca Thome, the national coordinator of the marine conservation organization Tamar, told the press after flying over the area. "It looks like brown gelatin spreading out to sea." (The Guardian)