Contagem Regressiva, 2020
pencil and ink on paper
work in progress
On Jan. 25, 2019 a mining dam that sat above Brumadinho, a large town in southeastern Brazil, collapsed and unleashed a tidal wave of waste and mud that engulfed homes, businesses and residents in its path. It killed at least 270 people; 12 are still missing. It was one of the deadliest mining accidents in Brazilian history — a tragedy, but not a surprise. All the elements of a potential catastrophe had been present, and warning signs overlooked, for years.
The state of Minas Gerais, where the dam that collapsed was located, is the hub of Brazil’s mining industry, producing 53 percent of the country’s total output. It has more mines and tailings dams than any other state in the country. But the laws governing them are written by the mining companies, not for the safety of residents.
The giant Brazilian mining company Vale S.A., is the world’s largest iron ore miner, founded in 1942.There are 87 mining dams in Brazil built like the one that failed. And all but four of them have been rated by the government as equally vulnerable, or worse. Even more alarming, at least 27 similarly built dams sit directly uphill from cities or towns, with more than 100,000 people living in especially risky areas if they failed.