|Failure of tailings dams - a new “Stava” in Brazil|
| In Brazil, the failure of three tailings dams has caused a catastrophe quite similar to the one occurring in the Stava valley on 19 July 1985, although the toll of human lives lost and damage to the environment is going to be much higher.
The Stava 1985 Foundation and the “19 luglio val di Stava” Association express their deep sorrow for the Victims and solidarity to all the relatives and communities struck by this disaster.
In Italy, there are 650 basins for the deposit of mine waste, with a total volume of some hundred millions of cubic metres of tailings stored.
| On 25 January last, at Brumadinho in the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil, a mine waste deposit, made up of several tailings dams, at the Córrego de Feijăo iron mine, collapsed and generated a huge mudflow, which struck first the mine facilities and after a few minutes the town of Brumadinho, located some 7 km downstream.
So far, 99 people have lost their lives and there is very little hope of finding somebody alive among the 259 persons still missing.
The mudflow, with a total volume of 12 million cubic metres, has caused severe environmental damage and the destruction of numerous buildings and a railway bridge. There is fear that a fourth tailings dam, damaged by the mudflow, might also fail.
The Brumadinho incident is the worst disaster worldwide due to the failure of tailings dams and is the 69th collapse of these structures since the Stava valley disaster, which caused the death of 268 people and considerable environmental damage.
The Stava 1985 Foundation and the “19 luglio val di Stava” Association pinpoint the fact that the risk of failure of tailings dams is still underestimated. Unfortunately, this risk is growing with the passing of time, since many unsafe tailings dams, which should be closed and reclaimed, are still in use. In order to reduce the risk of failure of mine waste deposits, the use of mechanical filtering systems and other mud dehydration methods, such as “dewatering”, should be made compulsory.
By means of these methods, it is possible to eliminate the water in the final deposition and storing processes of tailings in waste disposal earth structures.
31 January 2019