Earlier this month, two dams retaining tons of iron-mining waste near the Brazilian town of Bento Rodrigues burst,
releasing 60 million cubic metres of thick, red toxic mud that flattened
buildings and trees, smothered the small town, and left twelve
dead. The wave of toxic sludge—tested and found to contain high levels
of mercury and arsenic, according to a BBC report—then moved
downstream, into the Rio Doce, and spent two weeks making
its way several hundred miles downstream, finally reaching the Atlantic
Ocean. According to Reuters: “Scientists say the sediment, which
may contain chemicals used by the mine to reduce iron ore impurities,
could alter the course of streams as they harden, reduce oxygen levels
in the water and diminish the fertility of riverbanks and farmland where
Infernum finally got a day off after six years of nonstop back-breaking labor with his kingdom. He had helped remodel the castle along with attend regular royal duties. He hardly got so much as an hour of sleep those three long years.
But now, he was free from them for a few days and was taking advantage of it. The demon was snoozing quietly on a flat rock next to a pond. His tail hung off the side and his wings were spread out, soaking up the sun’s heat. He lifted his head slightly when he heard a twig snap, and since Infernum hadn’t had a break in so long, he was in no mood to be interrupted.
“What the fuck are you doing here.”
It didn’t seem like a question, more so of a demand. He gazed at the intruder with bored eyes, still bleary from sleep. The tip of his soft tail twitched in annoyance.
Meet Hayley Todesco, The 17-year-old Google Science Fair Winner developing sustainable technologies
Hayley became deeply interested in the environment after watching Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Her project uses a sustainable and efficient method to break down pollutant substances and toxins found in tailing ponds water in her hometown, a hub of the oil sands industry.
General view from above of a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd that burst, in Mariana, Brazil, November 10, 2015.
The collapse of
two dams at a Brazilian mine has cut off drinking water for quarter of a
million people and saturated waterways downstream with dense orange
sediment that could wreck the ecosystem for years to come.
people were killed, 19 are still listed as missing and 500 people were
displaced from their homes when the dams burst at an iron ore mine in
southeastern Brazil on Nov. 5.
sheer volume of water disgorged by the dams and laden with mineral waste
across nearly 500 km is staggering: 60 million cubic meters, the
equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools or the volume carried by
about 187 oil tankers.
Dilma Rousseff compared the damage to the 2010 oil spill by BP PLC in
the Gulf of Mexico and Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira called it
an “environmental catastrophe.”
say the sediment, which may contain chemicals used by the mine to
reduce iron ore impurities, could alter the course of streams as they
harden, reduce oxygen levels in the water and diminish the fertility of
riverbanks and farmland where floodwater passed.
Mineração SA, a joint venture between mining giants Vale SA and BHP
Billiton and owner of the mine, has repeatedly said the mud is not
But biologists and
environmental experts disagree. Local authorities have ordered families
rescued from the flood to wash thoroughly and dispose of clothes that
came in contact with the mud.
already clear wildlife is being killed by this mud,” said Klemens
Laschesfki, professor of geosciences at the Federal University of Minas
Gerais. “To say the mud is not a health risk is overly simplistic.”
the heavy mud hardens, Laschesfki says, it will make farming difficult.
And so much silt will settle along the bottom of the Rio Doce and the
tributaries that carried the mud there that the very course of watershed
“Many regions will never be the same,” he says.
testing the river water and results should be published over the coming
weeks, giving a better idea of the contents of the mining waste.
cause for concern is that compounds known as ether amines could have
been used at the mine to separate silica from the iron ore, in order to
produce a better quality product.
to mining industry research and scientific literature published in
recent years, the compounds are commonly used at Brazilian mines,
some of the compounds, according to the website of Air Products, a
company that produces them, “are not readily biodegradable and have high
toxicity to aquatic organisms.” They can also raise PH levels to a
point that is environmentally harmful.
will be serious problems using the water from the river now,” says
Pedro Antonio Molinas, a water resources engineer and mining industry
consultant familiar with the region.
did not respond to questions about whether it used the compounds or
whether they were in the so-called tailings pond whose contents burst
through the broken dams.