MAB warns authorities about possible mud contamination to the São Francisco River

In case of contamination of the Velho Chico, millions of people would suffer from ore tailings contaminated water supplies The concern of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) […]

In case of contamination of the Velho Chico, millions of people would suffer from ore tailings contaminated water supplies

The concern of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) after the new crime committed by the mining company Vale, a recidivist criminal, in the municipality of Brumadinho, Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, is pretty large. The dimension of this crime may harm millions of people miles away from Brumadinho.

According to available information, still quite mismatched, the amount of ore tailings spilled by the dam is lower than in the case of the crime in Mariana in 2015[when another dam failed and gave way to millions of cubic meters of ore tailings that destroyed the Doce River. However, the socio-environmental consequences are extremely serious. The MAB laments the fatalities and destruction generated by the company. And we warn about another concern: the arrival of the mud to the São Francisco River, the “Velho Chico”.

This river, known as the National Integration River, is one of the most important in Brazil. It travels through five states: Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco, Sergipe and Alagoas. Belonging to its basin are 521 municipalities. Much of its course is in the northeastern semiarid region, which makes it the main source of water for a large part of the population.

‘In the DoceRiver basin, the crime of Samarco (Vale / BHP) in Mariana left about one million people without water to drink and, to this day, several municipalities suffer fromthe lack of water supply and rely exclusively on assistance of tank trucks. In some cities, the population is drinking water from the Doce River, which is contaminated with tailings from the Fundão dam’, says Andréia Neiva, a MAB militant in Bahia.

Neiva also warned that if the mud of Feijão mine dam reaches the São Francisco River, through its tributary, the already contaminated ParaopebaRiver, it can cause a catastrophe. ‘A situation like this would be a calamity to the northeast, a region that historically suffers from the lack of water supply and depends almost exclusively on the São Francisco River’, she says worriedly.

Although the mud that came fromBrumadinho is not as liquid as it was in the Mariana dam, and the amount is smaller, there are risks of contamination to São Francisco River. The Paraopeba River is 510 kilometers long and flows near the Três Marias hydroelectric power dam, managed by Cemig (CompanhiaEnergética de Minas Gerais – Minas Gerais Electricity Company). According to the authorities and to the National Water Agency (ANA) evaluation, it would be possible to avoid the contamination of the Velho Chicoby closing the floodgates of the RetiroBaixo Hydroelectric Power Plant, located 220 kilometers from the failed dam.

The rupture of the Fundão dam caused for the DoceRiver basin the death of more than 11 tons of fish, endangered several species, affected livestock and the migratory flow, making it impossible to provide animal feed, interfered in the dynamics of regeneration of natural resources in areas of permanent preservation, impacting the fauna and flora as well as marine areas.

‘After Fundão’sdisruption, the UN and IGAM analysedDoceRiver’s water and concluded that the levels of heavy and toxic metals, such as arsenic, lead, mercury, etc., were above what is permissible by government control bodies.We do not want the Velho Chico to have the same fate, to become a river of lifeless mud’, grieves Moisés Borges of MAB.

Even though under current conditions the environmental impact is expected to be lower than in Doce River, according to experts consulted by the MAB, there is an imminent risk that contaminants reach the São Francisco River. Areal need foran alert! The MAB, within its vocation of carrying out popular struggles and its intend of protectinglives of communities and the nature, appeals to state authorities of Minas Gerais and Bahia to take the necessary steps quickly to avoid this tragedy, which can be very heavy on the people of those states as well as north-eastern citizens and the whole Brazil.

MAB makes itself available to contribute to this process and will continue to monitor closely the consequences of this crime of Vale, giving our support and solidarity to the victims.

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| Publicado 21/12/2023 por Coletivo de Comunicação MAB PI

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