Bento Rodrigues dam disaster

iron ore tailings dam failure in Brazil, disaster which occurred on 5 November 2015

The Bento Reodrigues dam disaster happened on 5 November 2015, when a dam at a Germano iron ore mine broke. The disaster is also known as Mariana dam disaster, or Samarco dam disaster. It happened in a mine near Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The flooding devastated the downstream villages of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Bento Rodrigues, killing 19 people.[4][5] The damage caused by the tailings dam collapse is the largest ever recorded with pollutants spread along 668 kilometres (415 mi) of watercourses.[6]

Bento Rodrigues dam disaster
Bento Rodrigues, Mariana, Minas Gerais (22828956680).jpg
The village of Bento Rodrigues after the disaster
Date5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
LocationGermano mine complex, Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Coordinates20°13′53″S 43°26′33″W / 20.23139°S 43.44250°W / -20.23139; -43.44250Coordinates: 20°13′53″S 43°26′33″W / 20.23139°S 43.44250°W / -20.23139; -43.44250
TypeDam failure
ParticipantsSamarco (Vale, BHP Billiton)
Non-fatal injuries16+[1]
Property damageTwo villages devastated,[1] around 200 homes destroyed[3]

The failure of the dam released 43.7 million cubic metres of mine tailings into the Doce River. A toxic brown mudflow polluted the river and beaches near the mouth when it reached the Atlantic Ocean 17 days later.[7][8][9][10] The disaster created a humanitarian crisis as hundreds were displaced and cities along the Doce River suffered water shortages when their water supplies were polluted.

The total impact of the disaster, including the reason for failure and the environmental consequences, are officially under investigation and remain unclear.[11] The owner of the Bento Rodrigues dam, Samarco, was subject to extensive litigation and government sanctions. In 2016, charges of manslaughter and environmental damage were filed against 21 executives, including Samarco's former CEO and representatives from Samarco's owners, Vale and BHP Billiton, on its board of directors. Controversy over the investigation grew after a 2013 report, indicating structural issues in the dam, was leaked.[12][13][14][15]

Satellite images of Bento Rodrigues and the Germano mine before and after the disaster, displaying the flooding and pollution of the Doce River.
An abandoned car caught in the mudflow amidst the ruins of Bento Rodrigues
Satellite image of the mouth of the Doce River in Linhares, Espírito Santo, where fine waste in suspension reached the southern Atlantic Ocean


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Dam burst at mining site devastates Brazilian town". Al Jazeera English. AFP and Reuters. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  2. "Brazil dam burst: Six months on, the marks left by sea of sludge". BBC. 2016-05-05.
  3. Willis, Andrew; Stringer, David (7 November 2015). "Dam Owned by Iron-Ore Giants Bursts, Flooding Brazil Valley". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  4. Trajano, Humberto (3 September 2016). "Quase 3 anos após tragédia de Mariana, projeto para novo distrito de Paracatu de Baixo é aprovado". G1 (in Brazilian Portuguese). Belo Horizonte: Globo Comunicação e Participações S.A. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  5. "Brazil dam burst: Six months on, the marks left by sea of sludge". BBC. 2016-05-05.
  6. Fonseca do Carmo, Flávio; et al. (July–September 2017). "Fundão tailings dam failures: the environment tragedy of the largest technological disaster of Brazilian mining in global context". Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation. Elsevier. 15 (3): 145–151. doi:10.1016/j.pecon.2017.06.002.
  7. "Boechat: Mariana é a maior tragédia ambiental do Brasil". TV UOL (in Portuguese). 9 November 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  8. "Acidente na barragem de Samarco é "a maior tragédia ambiental" do Brasil". Rede Angola (in Portuguese). 21 November 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  9. "Sebastião Salgado: "É a maior tragédia ambiental do Brasil. Mas tem solução"". El País (in Portuguese). 19 November 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  10. Rifai, Ryan (22 November 2015). "Toxic sludge reaches Atlantic after Brazil dams burst". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  11. "Anger rises as Brazilian mine disaster threatens river and sea with toxic mud". The Guardian. London. 2015-11-22. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  12. Dunckley, Mathew (13 November 2015). "BHP Billiton rebuts Samarco dam report". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  13. Phillips, Dom (25 November 2015). "Brazil's mining tragedy: was it a preventable disaster?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  14. Phillips, Dom; Brasileiro, Davilson (1 March 2018). "Brazil dam disaster: firm knew of potential impact months in advance". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  15. Timson, Lia (4 March 2019). "'Profit before people': documents allege BHP execs were warned over deadly dam". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2019.