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  • Relatives of a victim of the disaster of the tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Jan. 25, 2020.

    Relatives of a victim of the disaster of the tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Jan. 25, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 January 2020
Opinion

Brazilian Vale company was behind one of the world's worst mining disasters on January 25, 2019.

A year after the breakdown of the Brumadinho dam in Minas Gerais, Brazilians sadly remember 272 people who were victims of the negligence of the mining company Vale SA.

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"A year of Brumadinho's crime... When people only think of profits, they allow genocides like what happened in Brumadinho," former President Lula da Silva said and sent his solidarity with all the families who are still suffering the pain of their losses.

Pope Francis also recalled one of the greatest tragedies of mining activity and urged to "protect and repair" the environment.

"Pray for the 272 brothers and sisters who were buried underground. And lament the contamination of the entire river basin," the Argentine pontiff said.

On January 25, 2019, a dam storing waste from the Corrego do Feijao iron mine broke down, prompting a mud avalanche that killed 272 people, mostly employees of the mining company itself.

"We feel a lot of sadness and indignation. After a year, the culprits are not yet in jail," Anastasia do Carmo Silva, the mother of one of a 29-year-old worker, said.

Last Tuesday, the Brazilian Prosecutor's Office filed the first criminal complaint against those responsible for the tragedy. It seeks punishment for intentional homicide for 16 executives of the Vale company and the German firm TUV SUD, which was responsible for the safety studies of the dam.​​​​​​​

"A year ago, Brazil was sadly shocked and united in solidarity for the victims of Vale's crime in Brumadinho. At that time, we went there to show the extent of Vale's irresponsibility and give voice to those affected."

In addition to the crime of intentional homicide, the two companies are accused of environmental crimes, for the dumping of mineral waste affected rivers, forests and people in the region.

The Prosecutor's Office defined its main accusation as a crime of intentional homicide because businessmen deliberately concealed information that warned of the impending collapse of the dam.

"They knew all along that the dam was going to collapse. They had a study that indicated that the dam was going to break at night and that it could kill about 30 people," a member of the Brumadinho Dump Victims Association (Avabrum) said.

"A year has passed and nobody is in jail. It hurts us," Natalia de Oliveira, sister of another victim, said.

Since Jan. 25, 2019, about 3,500 firefighters have invested about 4,200 workhours in an attempt to locate and identify the bodies of the victims and deliver them to their families.​​​​​​​

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