500 protest impunity in Brazil's Samarco disasterStaff Writer | August 16, 2017
The Samarco mine unleashed a chemical-laced mudslide that killed 19 people and caused massive environmental damage.
LatAm The largest disaster in history
The executives of the Samarco and its co-owners, BHP Billiton Ltd and Vale SA, are accused of homicide in the 2015 oil spill that killed 19 people in Mariana.
Judge Jaques de Queiroz Ferreira decided to suspend the trial against the executives last week, despite recommendations from the Public Ministry that they be sentenced to 54 years in prison.
“Samarco, stop dividing, making sick, and deceiving the families of Gesteira, we want our houses and our lives back!” read the banners held by the protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the federal court of Belo Horizonte, the capital of the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais.
The company was charged with environmental crimes after a huge flood of 35,000 liters of toxic water flowed downstream from the site of the Samarco dam breach in Brazil’s mining heartland contaminated over 300 miles of Brazil’s Doce River.
The disaster shut down community water supplies and almost entirely decimated the nearby community of Bento Rodrigues.
The spill also caused grave damage to the local ecosystem and displaced around 500 people.
According to documents reported by Brazil’s Globo TV, Samarco management had known since 2013 that there were safety risks at the mine and that the dam could burst. ■