DATE: February 28, 2019
SNIP: A Brazilian environmentalist group says that toxic waste from a mine dam collapse wiped out life in more than half the Paraopeba River that flows past the city where the disaster occurred.
SOS Mata Atlantica said environmentalists traveled 305 of the river’s 510 kilometers (190 of 315 miles) and found that aquatic life was unsustainable.
The report said heavy metals, such as manganese, copper and chromium, were detected at levels higher than recommended, and it added that mud destroyed 112 hectares (277 acres) of native forests.
The dam holding back iron ore tailings at a mine owned by Vale SA burst Jan. 25 in the town of Brumadinho, killing at least 186 people.
In this region, 64% of fish species are found nowhere else on Earth.
Brazil has the most abundant water resources in the world, but they are tapped with often reckless abandon and inadequate regulation. Less than one in five of the country’s 24,092 dams come under the supervision of the 2010 dam safety law, 42 are unauthorised and 570 have no responsible operator, according to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper. With a mere 154 inspectors for such a vast country, only 3% of Brazil’s dams were inspected last year, it said.
The problems date back decades, but the risks look set to grow. The new administration of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has neutered the environment ministry and pledged to ease the licensing system for new projects.