One Month After The Dam Collapse: An Update From Brazil

This story is an update from our original coverage, which can be found here.

The collapse of a dam with mining waste in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil took away lives, homes and ways of living. After one month, many families still haven’t been able to locate their loved ones and at least 139 bodies are still under the toxic mud. Some of the affected are living with relatives in other cities without any prospective for a job. Our partners are reporting that the company responsible for this environmental disaster, Vale do Rio Doce – one of the World’s largest mining corporations – is offering a monthly stipend of less than $300 to the families for up to one year. They have shared that the elderly, parents of small children and the unemployed are struggling with the uncertainty of this new life. Many more families downstream are expected to lose what they most cherish – the water, fish, land and communities. Without a source of food and water, these families will join the over 20 million Brazilians who are facing food insecurity.

Now, other communities near dams full of toxic waste are living in fear they are at risk of suffering the same fate. Unfortunately, this type of catastrophe is expected to happen again.  The fast-paced and deregulated extraction of minerals is destroying livelihoods and contaminating water streams, land to grow food, ecosystems and places where people live and work across Brazil.

The biggest support to local families is coming from the social movements that are the first responders and are helping to organize families for the long haul. As of now, they’re providing support to the families with relocation, meals, clean up, participation in meetings with local communities to figure out the next steps to press the company for the families’ rights and organizing visits to communities downstream to talk about the impacts of the dam collapse on their livelihoods. Local communities are fighting against a multibillion-dollar corporation that all signs indicate will continue doing business as usual. It is critical that we stand in solidarity with the families and these social movements and the massive grassroots organizations led by those most affected.

They are our best hope.

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Saulo Araujo