Archeology of a tragedy
In 2015, Nov. 5th, several villages around
Mariana, a mining city in the heart of Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, were struck by toxic mud, following the collapse of two mining dams belonging to the mining company Samarco Mineração SA, a joint venture between the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, and the Brazilian iron ore giant Vale.
This accident killed 17 people and 2 are still missing. This was the worst environmental tragedy in Brazil ever and no one was pleaded guilty yet. The dam burst was responsible for the contamination of Rio Doce, one important river in southwestern Brazil that supplied water for 15 cities along its 853km of extension.
Two months after the accident, evicted families are living temporarily in houses rented by Samarco. So far, the company has agreed to pay R$100,000.00 (US$25,000.00) to each family and R$1bn (US$250m) in clean-up costs.
I visited the region some weeks after the accident, when some survivors were still returning to what was left of their homes, trying to save something not destroyed by the mud or stolen by burglars. Excluding them, the towns were empty and silent.
This is what I saw.