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  • The water coming out after a dam collapsed in Brazil contained toxic material which the U.N. seeks an inquiry into.

    The water coming out after a dam collapsed in Brazil contained toxic material which the U.N. seeks an inquiry into. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 January 2019

The U.N. wants an inquiry into toxic waste after a dam collapse in Brazil killed at least 84 and threatens to contaminate natural water resources.

United Nations human rights experts called Wednesday for an impartial investigation into the deadly collapse of a dam in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and into the toxicity of the waste from the iron ore mine owned by Vale.

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In a statement, the U.N. expert on disposal of hazardous substances Baskut Tuncat urged the government to prioritize safety evaluations of dams and not authorize any new tailing dams until safety is ensured.

The muddy water, unleashed by the dam collapse, has high concentrations of iron oxide which is now heading down a small river. The muddy water is threatening to contaminate the river which is the source of drinking water for five states out of 26 in Brazil.

The muddy water already turned part of the greenish water of the Parapoeba River brown.

"We used the river to take baths, to fish, to water our plants and now we can't do any of that," said chief Hayo whose Pataxco Ha-ha-hae Indigenous community was warned against using the river water. "We can't even water our plants because they say it damages the soil."

Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, has vowed to dedicate 10 percent of annual production to safety so as to avoid another instance of the tailings dam failures that have tarred its legacy, including the dam that burst in the town of Brumadinho last Friday, killing at least 84 people and leaving 276 still missing and presumed dead.

The company said that it will dismantle 10 dams that are similar to the collapsed one.

Three employees of Brazilian mining company Vale SA and two other engineers working on behalf of the company were arrested Tuesday.

Minas Gerais state investigators issued a total of five arrest warrants and seven search warrants, on suspicion of murder, falsification of documents and environmental crimes, the judge’s decision showed.

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