Dams are still a concern
The existence of 26 mining dams and the projects of Mineração Rio do Norte to further expand the number of dams are of great concern to quilombolas and riparians. The company has already asked Ibama to authorize the construction of a new tailings structure, the SP 25. “It is really worrying. I believe that in our situation maybe no one will die if a rupture happens. I mean immediate death, but surviving in this place will be impossible”, says Maria de Fátima Viana Lopes, coordinator of the Boa Nova community that is downstream of the set of dams. José Domingos, member of the board of the Associação Comunitária dos Produtores Rurais do Médio Lago Sapucuá adds that “no compensation will be worth our water, our precious liquid. If we move, we’ll live in a building and get stuck. Here I live free. And if the water gets polluted, it will not only be in my community. It will be for everyone”.
Mineração Rio do Norte recently informed the Comissão Pró-Índio de São Paulo that it will review current emergency action plans and prepare new contingency and recovery plans by August 2020. The weaknesses of the current plans was highlighted by the NGO in a book published at the end of last year. “We have already pointed out the importance of MRN ensuring space for the participation of quilombolas and riparians in the process of elaboration of the studies” ponders Lúcia Andrade, of the Comissão Pró-Índio. “The plans formalize the company’s commitments in case of failure of its dams so it is essential that they be defined in dialogue with the population in the risk zone”, she adds.
Meanwhile, the mining company is taking the first steps in preparing communities for eventual failures in their dams. In the first half of 2019, Mineração Rio do Norte began the implementation of emergency measures in the Quilombo Boa Vista, which is located 400 meters from one of the dams. Signs were installed to indicate the escape routes and a simulation was executed in the community. However, the community’s concern remains. “It’s not that 100% achievement yet, but we have some progress”, said Amarildo dos Santos, coordinator of the Boa Vista Quilombola Community Association. “We did the training, but we see many flaws still in the process. For example, if the dam breaks, we are supposed to run to the highest point, but the highest point would be the field, and there is no structure to accommodate people there. If they destroy the houses below the dam, where would these people go? These are things that need to be improved”, worries Amarildo.
In the coming months, the company will continue its actions in Boa Vista and begin training in riverine communities of Boa Nova and Saracá.
To learn more:
Local population denounces the impacts of mining in the Brazilian Amazon
Mining threatens local communities, forests and waterways