Water resources - 'The river is dying': the vast ecological cost of Brazil's mining disasters
Water resources are tapped with often reckless abandon and poor regulation. And it looks set to go on under new president.

Watts, Jonathan

Publisher:  Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres
Date Written:  29/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23384

Brazil's worst mining disaster in decades has prompted calls to create stronger regulations and enforce them with real consequences rather than small fines that often go unpaid.



The torrent of mud and iron ore tailings that engulfed the community of Brumadinho on Friday continues to inflict a toll on residents, river systems and freshwater species.

Rescue teams had by Monday recovered 60 bodies near the site, which is operated by Vale, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, but hundreds of people are still missing. Many were eating lunch or resting in a hotel when the tailings dam collapsed and swept them away in a tide of orange sludge....

Campaigners say it is essential to tighten regulations and punish those involved. “Good environmental regulation isn’t about adding costs to development, it’s about safeguarding people and avoiding massive clean-up costs like the ones we are now seeing,” said Stewart Maginnis, the director of the nature-based solutions group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Part of the problem is short-termism. A safer alternative to tailings dams is dry stacking of mining waste. This process – which removes water from the slurry so it can be stored in a stable condition – has been used successfully in many other countries. In Brazil, a 2016 test of dry stacking in Pau Branco iron-ore mine found it was safer, better for water-recycling and required less monitoring and maintenance. Over the 20-year life of a mine, it was also far more cost-efficient. But the extra initial investment of $5-$10m appears to have put off many Brazilian mine owners, who are more used to taking advantage of the country’s abundant rivers

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