Brazil: one year after the accident that resulted in the death of 14 workers, families have not yet received full indemnification.

14 November 2016 09:00

On November 5 th, 2016, completed a year of Fundão dam break in the Mariana city, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. This accident resulted in the death of 19 people, including 14 workers leaving dozens more injured and more than 2,000 unemployed workers. The dam, at the Germano plant is under the responsibility of the company Samarco owned by the Anglo- Australian BHP. 

The accident, that was globally known for its social and environmental impacts, released more than 35 million cubic meters of tailings of ore and water, according to Samarco. A wave of mud was formed and devastated the places it passed through. The River Doce, that passes through East of Minas Gerais and flows until the cost of the state of Espirito Santo, was completely polluted and several cities, around 40- some of them had to suspend the water supply - suffered consequence impacting the life of 424 thousand people. The mood has passed through 663,2 KM resulting in the death of more than 11 tons of fish, threatening the extinction of some species, impacting fauna, flora, maritime and conservation areas; as well as causing damage to property and impacting economic activities of the region, such as: the fishing, agriculture and tourism. 

According to the local media G1, the investigation of Federal Police Head, Roger Lima de Moura, Chief of the Bureau of Environment and History Heritage, concluded that a lot of mistakes in the work process resulted in this accident, among them, are the following: lack of updated risk license and operation manual of the dam; there was also heightening "far above the recommended"; suppression or lack of monitoring devices; a change in the dam axis to increase the storage capacity; and, finally, the mud released by the Company Vale do Rio Doce, that was 27% of the total, was sandy and had contributed to the liquefaction of the Dam. According to Moura, Samarco assumed the risk since it privileged profit over safety. 

The SITCOP-MG, union representing the workers of construction of Minas Gerais, calls attention to the dangerous conditions to which workers of the dams are exposed once, not only the state of Minas Gerais had five breakups dams between 2001 and 2015; but also, according to the State Foundation for the Environment (FEAM in Portuguese) out of the 735 dams in operation in the state, 29 did not have the stability guaranteed by the auditors. The lack of union access to the sites of the dams, which has been hampered by the companies responsible for them, affect the working conditions of these workers. 

Despite the efforts of different sectors of society, the affected families only partially received their compensation, according to Nilton Freitas, BWI Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean "It is necessary that the unions around the world are united to ensure that families affected have their rights respected, and also to prevent further accidents from happening".