Updated 10:42 AM EDT, Thu, Jun 04, 2020

Brazil Dam Burst: Lawmakers Push for Tougher Regulations In Mining Code

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Lawmakers pushed for tougher regulations in a new mining code following a deadly dam burst at a Brazilian mine.

Five days of rescue efforts in towns ravaged by the huge mudflow discovered six bodies while 22 people are still missing, The Guardian reported. It is deemed as the worst mining disaster in Brazil's history, with iron ore giant Vale SA being pressured to help mourning families and contain the environmental impact. No cause has been recognized for the dams' failure that has left around 750 residents homeless.

The tragedy in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, which was rich in minerals, had dislodged hundreds of residents and set off investigations by prosecutors and calls for stricter supervision of the mining industry that has provided numerous jobs and government tax receipts, The Guardian further reported.

Leonardo Quintão, the chief sponsor of a new mining code in congress, said on Tuesday that he planned to provide more measures to a firmer regulation of tailings dams like the two that collapsed on Thursday, the news outlet noted. Minas Gerais Governor Fernando Pimentel admitted that state mining regulations are not enough and his aides said they should probably alter their efforts to a faster licensing.

Public criticism was initially hurled on mine operator Samarco Mineração SA, but the condemnation has now shifted to the big names behind the 50-50 joint venture: Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd, the world's largest mining company, and its Brazilian partner Vale, the biggest iron ore miner, The Guardian wrote.

Duarte Junior, mayor of the town of Mariana, said that Samarco is "just a name they made up" and BHP and Vale have the sole responsibility for the tragedy, the news outlet noted. BHP's public response has been fast, but Vale has been detached of the incident so far. Vale accounted for more than 10% of Brazil's total exports in 2013.

State prosecutor Carlos Eduardo Ferreira Pinto and town officials in Mariana claimed that there was evidence showing that Vale may have been dumping detritus from its own close by iron-ore mines into Samarco's waste reservoir, which resulted to a pressurized dam system, The Wall Street Jounal reported.

Pinto also said that the dam failure probably came from a possible negligence, The Wall Street Journal added. A 2013 report commissioned by his office indicated that the location of the mining waste could weaken the dam structure's stability. This finding has led Pinto to withhold an environmental license to operate to Samarco.

"The report had already highlighted the fragility of these structures and the necessity of an increased rigor in monitoring them," said Pinto, as quoted by the news outlet. "No operation of this size just breaks without warning."

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