190129 Brazil Vale
Aerial view of a fallen bridge taken after the collapse of a dam which belonged to Brazil's giant mining company Vale, near the town of Brumadinho in southeastern Brazil, on January 25, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Sao Paulo: Lax regulations, chronic short staffing and a law that muffled the voices of environmentalists on mining licenses made the devastating collapse of a dam in southeastern Brazil all but destined to happen, experts and legislators say.


The failure of the dam holding back iron ore mining waste on January 25 unleashed an avalanche of mud that buried buildings and contaminated water downstream. At least 115 people have died, and 248 people remain missing.

But one of the cruelest parts of the tragedy in Brumadinho is that it has happened before: In 2015, mining dams burst in nearby Mariana in what is considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.

What’s more, it could happen again, as many Brazilian states and the federal government move to ease regulation in the name of economic development.