Two dams at an iron-ore mine in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, broke on 05 November 2015, inundating the entire rural district of Bento Rodrigues.
The small town of Bento Rodrigues was completely inundated with water, mud and waste from the mining operation. Some reports say the dams released over 60 million cubic metres of water and waste. At least 9 people were killed and, as of 13 November, more than 19 are still missing.
Toxic Mining Waste
The dams are known as Barragem de Fundão. About the dams at Fundão, the Guardian said:
“Authorities said the dam was built to hold back water and residue from mining operations, a mixture that can often be toxic. The dam was holding so-called tailings, a mining waste product of metal filings, water and occasionally chemicals. It was located near the Gualaxo do Norte river, fuelling fears of potential water contamination”.
What Caused the Dams to Fail?
Saleem H. Ali, Chair in Sustainable Resource Development, The University of Queensland, asks the question: Who should we blame for the Brazil mining dam disaster? and looks into the causes of the dam failure at Bento Rodrigues.
Scale of the Flood
The images from NASA below were taken on 12 November 2015, and show the scale of the flood and dam break.
About the images, NASA says: The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these natural-color views of the village and the surrounding region. The top image shows the area on 11 October 2015, before the incident; the bottom image shows the area after the dam failure, on 12 November 2015.