Two dams burst at a mine near the city of Mariana, in southern Brazil on 5 November 2015. The village of Bento Rodrigues, home to over 600 people, was completely destroyed by more than 60 million tons of waste water from iron ore mining. This day will be a stark reminder of the ambitions to always put profit first before people. Three weeks after the dams burst, the mud had travelled 500km and reached the Atlantic Ocean, causing the greatest environmental disaster in the history of Brazil.
This incident killed 19 people and more than 150 are missing. At least 700 people have been displaced from their homes and around 350,000 people have no access to clean water.
The mining company Samarco, which is jointly owned by the Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale, said it was taking every measure possible to provide emergency assistance to those affected and to reduce the social and economic impacts of the disaster.
Our partner MAB said that the response provided to those affected by the loss of their homes or livelihoods has been insufficient. MAB said an appropriate response should include a minimum monthly wage per person and an initial bonus to help families cover for any debts and loses.
In 1985, a similar event occurred in the Amazon forest. The company responsible was purchased by BHP Billinton 10 years later. Then 20% of the liquid surface of a lake was solidified by the process of washing ore tailings. This company continues to mine near the land of the Quilombolas in Para state, co-opting the Quilombolas' leadership to start exploitation in their traditional lands.
In Their Lifetime funds our partner CPI-SP to work alongside the Quilombolas of Oriximiná who are threatened by mining. CPI-SP has identified 80 mining processes in progress from 20 different mining companies.
Francisco Hugo, president of the Quilombola cooperative, said: 'Without the ITL project, we wouldn't have the means to resist. How could we get to all those meetings without any means of transportation? It would all be lost. There's no one else to give us any support.'