Vale's crime in Brumadinho, in 2019, four years after the dam broke in Mariana, has thrown Minas Gerais wide open like a time bomb.
Text by Isis Medeiros
Photos by Alexandre Pires, Ana Carolina Fernandes, Cadu Rolim, Danilo Verpa, Duda Xavier, Fábio Nascimento, Leo Couri, Gabi Di Bella, Gabriela Biló, Isis Medeiros, Larissa Helena, Leandro Taques, Lincon Zarbietti, Lucas Bois, Lucas Hallel, Marcia Foletto, Ricardo Stuckert, Tulio Thomé.
On January 25, the socio-environmental crime of mining company VALE in Brumadinho completes one year. The violent rupture of the tailings dam of the world's leading iron ore producer has reached a record number of deaths in the state of Minas Gerais and has already been considered the biggest "accident" in the history of Brazil, which could become the second deadliest industrial accident of the 21st century worldwide.
Even knowing the risk of the instability that was running the dam of Córrego do Feijão, the mining company and its leaders allowed 12.7 million m³ of mining waste, accumulated over 40 years and managed since 2003 by VALE, to break up, to invade numerous cities, to destroy the lives of communities and hundreds of people and their territories. According to a civil defense survey, 270 people died, 77% men, mostly company workers. Besides them, two unborn, Lorenzo and Maria Elisa, reaching 272 deaths, but the mining company and the Brazilian government itself do not take these two lives into account in the process of recognition and compensation to victims. Eleven people have not yet been found amidst the rubble that continues to be searched by the fire department, since the dam ruptured.
In the light of the deaths and incalculable impacts on the Paraopeba River, which forms the São Francisco River Basin, one of the most important waterways in Brazil and South America, no one has yet been held responsible, punished or imprisoned. Most families affected by the river, contaminated soil and air, along the entire course of the river, still remain without compensation and reparations one year after the crime.
Minas Gerais is the Brazilian state with the largest mining activity in Brazil and, according to the National Water Agency (ANA), with information from the National Mining Agency (ANM), the country has approximately 24,092 dams, 790 tailings dams (mostly small, on rural properties) being Minas Gerais the Brazilian state with the largest concentration - 357. Of the 790 ore dams, more than 300 "were not classified in relation to their risk of rupture and the potential damage they could cause to the environment and to society". The ANM, the agency responsible for inspection, has only 35 inspectors trained to work on ore tailings dams, but, according to a study, only 3% of them are fiscalized.
The breaking of dams and the impunity of these multinationals in underdeveloped countries prove painfully that this model of development does not work for the people' interest, there is no social development with a predatory mining model. In 2018, the mining company profited 21 billion worldwide, and according to a survey by the Metabase Union, in 2019 alone, VALE profited 954% over each worker. This means that a mining base worker spends only 54 minutes to produce his monthly salary. These crimes provoked by the predatory model of mining have been demonstrating in the Brazilian territory, its main raw material base, the priority for the high rates of profit to the detriment of the quality of life of the local population.
The national and international press has covered the fact enormously. The subject attracted curious photographers, cameramen and artists who began to represent the mud as a form of protest against the injustice and impunity of those responsible involved. The Brazilian academic community, NGOs, private initiatives, social movements fighting for those affected by dams have been denouncing daily the abuse of power of the company, which continues to make agreements of its interest with the justice.
Although the tragedy has been much reported, very little is mentioned about the intimate life of the communities, the difficulties of the Pataxó indigenous village, the violation of the rights of the six quilombola communities in the territory of Brumadinho, riverbank communities, fishermen, farmers who have lost their work and their way of survival, and especially on the struggle of women in the frontline, claiming rights, preventing company abuses and demanding justice for their dead children. In all territories the populations are being forced to fight to restructure their lives.
The population affected in the communities surrounding the mining companies, generally poor and rural, denounced some problems, among them: lack of water, unbalance in fauna and flora, respiratory diseases, gentrification and slumming, increased levels of violence, prostitution and social conflicts, risks of new dam breaks, constant explosions and expulsion of minerals in the air, silting up of springs and rivers, contamination of soil, air and water.
In the week that completes one year of the massacre that left thousands of people desolate in Brazil and around the world, more than 350 people affected travel about 186 miles, together, to denounce Vale's crime in Brumadinho and the Paraopeba River basin. The walk is part of the "Vale Destrói, o Povo Constrói" (The Vale Destroys, the People Build) journey and began in Belo Horizonte. It first took place at the Minas Gerais Court of Justice (TJMG), where the affected people denounced the paralysis of emergency aid, the lack of technical assistance in the affected cities and communities, the impunity of the company and the absence of public policies that guarantee the rights of these populations. The protest in Belo Horizonte ended in front of the National Mining Agency, where the affected people denounced the non-compliance and lack of oversight of the National Dam Safety Policy.
The march also passes through other cities affected by the tragedy, like Pompéu, Juatuba, Betim, Citrolândia and São Joaquim de Bicas, until it reaches Brumadinho and Córrego do Feijão on the 25th, when it completes a year of tragedy. At the end of 2019, the Federal Chamber of Deputies approved Bill 2788, which establishes the National Policy on the Rights of Populations Affected by Dams - PNAB, to guarantee the rights of those affected to full compensation, indemnity and emergency assistance in the event of disasters. The PL still needs to be approved in the Senate and regulated. It is in this context that it follows the march.
Photographic Exhibition - Call “Minas que me Feres”
After four years of Vale/Samarco/BHP crime in Mariana (November 5) and one year of Vale crime in Brumadinho (January 25), the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) promotes the "Day of Struggle of the Affected: Vale Destroys, The People Build".
In this context, the Movement called on photographers and photographers from all over Brazil for the photographic exhibition “Minas que me Feres” (Mines that hurt me: from crimes to resistance"). As a result of the work of many professionals and a collective elaboration, the exhibition, which will travel through several cities in the country, brings a photographic and audiovisual panorama of the impact of the crimes on the environment and on the life of the people affected, as well as the paths to resistance.
Below are some of the works that were selected for the exhibition:
Photographers and photographers who have been selected and shared their work:
Alex Fisberg, Alexandre Guzsanche, Amanda Coimbra Duda Xavier, Ana Carolina Fernandes, Ana Gaspar, André Soler, Augusto Gomes, Bárbara Dias, Beatriz Ribeiro, Brum Bello, Cadu Rolim, Carne Seca, Danilo Verpa, Douglas Mansur, Elza Cohen, Fábia Karklin, Fábio Nascimento, Filipe Chaves, Flora Passos, Gabriel Lordello, Gabriel Brandão, Gabriela Biló, Gabriela Di Bella, Guilherme Weimann, Isis Medeiros, Ismael dos Anjos, Joice Valverde, Joka Madruga, Larissa Helena, Larissa Pinto, Leandro Couri, Leandro Raggi, Leandro Taques, Leo Otero, Lincon Zarbietti, Lucas Bois, Lucas Hallel, Luiz Baltar, Marcia Folleto, Mateus Gomes, Mayra Azzi, Nilmar Lage, Paul Cabanis Xande Pires, Paula Tereza, Ricardo Stuckert, Rubens Venâncio, Samuel Chahoud, Tainara Torres, Thais Gobbo, Thiago Sobral, Tulio Thomé, Valéria Amorim do Carmo e Vitor Jubini.
Isis Medeiros - Marilene Ribeiro - Tibério França - Marcelo Aguilar
Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB)