RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s biggest environmental disaster, which left 19 dead and nearly 400 families homeless, struck three years ago this Monday – three years of unkept promises with none of those responsible convicted of any crime.
On Nov. 5, 2015, two dams built to contain mine tailings at the Samarco complex in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, gave way, allowing a flood of mud and mine waste that wiped out seven hamlets and contaminated a 650-kilometer (405-mile) stretch of the Doce River.
The Brazilian government called the accident in the southeastern state the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history.
Three years later, many families of the dead have still not received any compensation; the reconstruction of the homes of nearly 400 families has not yet begun and the criminal investigations continue.
According to the state-owned Agencia Brasil news service, the reconstruction schedule published two years ago remains on hold and the delivery of new districts, promised for 2019, seems to have been forgotten.
Though construction licenses have been awarded and the opening of roads is underway, a network of drainpipes is also needed and then the roads paved, works that should be completed in some 22 months and whose delivery is planned for August 2020.
One of the promises of the Renew Foundation, responsible for the recovery of the affected area, was to employ in the project close to 80 percent local labor, and it is estimated that halfway through the next year some 2,000 workers will be hired.
Samarco is a 50-50 joint venture of Brazilian mining giant Vale and Anglo-Australian mining titan BHP Billiton
In June, the partners signed an accord with Brazilian authorities to repair the damage caused by the catastrophe.
The agreement put an end to the civil litigation opened against the mining companies, including a suit brought by the state and federal governments demanding 20 billion reais ($5.29 billion) in compensation.