Brumadinho dam disaster: Five years of injustice

January 25, 2024

Today marks five years since the Brumadinho dam collapsed in Brazil and nearly 12 million cubic metres of toxic waste were released into local communities and water systems.

The tragedy resulted in one of the most devastating environmental disasters in Brazilian history.

Despite clear warnings about the dam, TÜV SÜD’s Brazilian subsidiary certified its safety and thereby allowed the continued operation of the dam and mine, which ultimately led to the disaster.  

272 people were killed.

To mark five years of injustice – we are sharing the stories of those affected showing the impact that the disaster has had on their lives.

Flavia Aparecida Barbosa Coelho

Flavia’s father often spoke about his concerns about the dam he worked at in Brumadinho: “He was already very afraid of what might happen there.”

Tragically, five years ago, Olavo Henrique’s concerns came true when a tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine collapsed, killing him and 271 other people.

It took nine long days for Olavo’s body to be found.

“My children waited for their grandfather to come home every day.”

Five years on, Flavia still struggles to sleep at night: “I imagine the pain and suffering that my father and the victims went through inside of the mine.

Eliane de Almedia

When Eliane de Almedia first heard about the mine collapse in Brumadinho five years ago, she immediately tried to call her brother who worked at the dam: “I couldn’t reach him. He didn’t return my calls because he was dead.”

João Paulo had tragically been killed alongside 271 others from a deluge of toxic mud and waste.

At the time of the collapse, Eliane was away from home visiting family, but she was never permitted back home: “Our house was condemned. We weren’t allowed to return. My family couldn’t retrieve anything. We were left with only the clothes we had taken on the trip to my mother’s house.”

Gleison Welbert Pereira

Gleison Welbert Pereira worked for Vale as a specialized technician on the day the Brumadinho mine collapsed five years ago.

“I heard a loud noise and saw poles falling. Then I saw a wave of mud about five meters high.”

Gleison was in his truck with some of his colleagues. They made the quick decision to drive away: “People were shouting for me to speed up. We were all afraid the mud would hit us. I saw the bridge collapse. I’ve never seen anything so horrific.”

Once Gleison had driven up to the top of the hill and left his colleagues safely, he made the brave decision to drive back down to help rescue others.

“Many people said they are alive today because I saved them. I don’t think I did anything extraordinary; when I saw someone running from the mud, I couldn’t help but stop the truck to help. I helped everyone I could.”

Claudia Duarte de Silva

“Eight days after the Brumadinho dam’s collapse, a friend called me to say that they had identified my husband’s body. Before that, I had no news from him or about him.”

“I was asked to identify his body, but I could not at the time. I should have done it, I regret not having seen him.”

Claudia was told that her husband Glayson Leandro da Silva initially managed to escape the wave of mud, but heroically went back to try and help his colleagues escape.

“I can barely speak about what happened I can no longer do the things we used to do together. I still feel as if I am constantly in a bad mood. He was the one who used to cheer me up.”

“Those responsible for the dam were aware of its situation. They did nothing to save his life.”

Amanda Carolina Maia Rios Moreira

Amanda Carolina Maia Rios Moreira was at home on 25 January 2019. She received a phonecall from her brother, who told her the news of the dam’s collapse.

“I felt like I knew my husband was dead.”

That night, she waited for news about her husband Cleidson. She heard from one of his colleagues, who told Amanda that he had seen Cleidson running from the mud: “I started to believe he was still alive and lost in the woods.”

But when she received a phone call 13 days after the disaster, it was to request she identify Cleidson’s body.

“I feel as if I am looping in an eternal funeral.”

Alongside Manner Spangenberg, we are representing victims of the disaster in their case against TÜV SÜD in Munich. 

“TÜV SÜD’s role in this disaster cannot be understated, and the delay in compensating those affected only adds to the anguish and frustration of the victims. It is disheartening that, even after five years, the path to justice and fair compensation remains elusive for our clients.” – Bruna Ficklscherer, Legal Director, Pogust Goodhead

We will continue fighting for justice for our clients, whose lives and livelihoods were ripped apart by the disaster. 

More Press

Emissions cheating case against car industry reveals legal bill to defend action
Lawyers defending unprecedented legal action against the car industry over emissions cheating have revealed in court the estimated costs of defending the...
Read More
French car companies fail to stall emissions cheating case
A High Court judgment rejected claims from Peugeot Citroën and Renault that they could not cooperate with an English emissions court case.
Read More
Brumadinho dam disaster victims demand justice from TÜV SÜD
Victims of the Brumadinho disaster travelled to TÜV SÜD’s headquarters in Munich to demand justice.
Read More