Blog / 26 February 2024

Brumadinho: 5 years without justice

On January 25, 2019, Brumadinho region witnessed a tragedy-crime that claimed 272 lives, including two unborn children, affectionately called "Jewels" in response to VALE’s declarations that the company, as a Brazilian jewel, should not be condemned for an accident. However, the investigations about B1 dam collapse, at Córrego do Feijão Mine, showed that the scar left on the community and environment was not an accident, but VALE negligence.

Unheard warnings, repeated tragedies

In Brumadinho, VALE's awareness of the dam’s risk and the effort to get a false safety certification, evident in a Federal Police investigation, underscores negligence. Despite the emergency drills, the reality proved fatal for those following the evacuation route or waiting for the alarm bell. The aftermath left survivors and victims’ families grappling with accountability, communication lapses, and unaddressed queries, perpetuating a cycle of injustice seen in Mariana, and Maceió.

Individual Corporate Profit, Collective Pain

Corporate disregard for safety standards, glaringly evident in VALE's case, mirrors a broader issue of prioritizing profits over lives. The repeated disregard for regulations highlights systemic failures in ensuring accountability and justice, amplifying the collective anguish of affected communities.

Which side will Justice Courts chose? People or Corporation?

Although there are glimmers of hope with the involvement of the Brumadinho victims’ family organisation – AVABRUM - as an Assistant Prosecutor, the legal battles persist. After 4 years in the State Court, the lawsuit against VALE is slowly re-starting in the Federal Court. The ex-VALE President, Fabio Schvartsman, is seeking a Habeas Corpus to avoid his responsabilities. The billionaire settlement between VALE and Minas Gerais state was agreed without hearing any victims’ families who are seeing the money spent elsewhere.

“Never Again”… until when?

The affected communities have clear demands: justice by holding accountable those responsible for the Brumadinho tragedy-crime; respect for victims’ rights via adequate compensation; and prevention of future disasters.

But how to prevent future disasters? Only in Minas Gerais, VALE currently manages 27 mining dams operating under emergency protocols with 2 “Level 3” dams which indicate imminent risk of rupture.

If VALE is negligent again, who is co-responsible? The state with opaque licensing processes? The investors that enjoy mud-stained return? For sure, it won’t be the communities that keeping raising their concerns.

The fight continues

Amidst fears of impending disasters and corporate influence, communities persist in their quest for justice, transparency and accountability. For that, several organisations, including Both ENDS partner, Instituto Cordilheira, have created the ’Observatory of Criminal Actions about Brumadinho tragedy’ where anyone can follow the ongoing legal processes both in Brasil and abroad.

Five years since the Brumadinho tragedy, justice remains elusive. As affected communities grapple with the trauma, the fight for accountability and prevention of future disasters continues unabated. In the pursuit of justice, collective action and unwavering advocacy remain essential to prevent further tragedies and ensure accountability for past injustices.


Ana Luiza Alves (Both ENDS) attended the memorial: During our visit we felt really touched and energized by the resilience that the affected people and communities show. Even with all their losses, the way they are capable to still find the strenght to fight for justice and for change in the system so such crimes and consequent tragedies do not repeat ever again is impressive.

And that is what inspire us to continue our Advocay work and providing support to the local organisations and projects that are promoting what we call Gender-Just Climate Solutions, so needed for the shift we want to see in the world and for the transformation these peoples and territories need to be able to carry on with their lives. Everyone deserves to live a life wiithout the fear of being the next victim.


Ana Xambre Pereira (Both ENDS): During our visit, we were unsettled by how VALE was profiting from the tragedy-crime caused by them. Despite the reparations, settlements and fines, VALE’s profits were not affected. Actually, VALE has been purchasing affected devalued land to expand operations and to build housing for their workers; while profiting from processing the tragedy waste. In the end, VALE is enjoying business-as-usual, when families lost their loved ones; communities lost their livelihoods from the now muddy and contaminated Paraopeba river; and the whole region lost their trust in any VALE’s promisses of safety. In cases of corporate negligence, consequences must be harder such as suspension of the company’s license to operate until all mines and dams pass safety tests executed by an independent organisation.  Despite VALE’s reparations and safety marketing, the general feeling from the local people was that is a matter of time until the next mining disaster. This fight is not only about mitigating the consequences from the mistakes of the past, but it must be about breaking this repeating cycle of profits over lives and environment for the present and future. Everyone who can break this cycle, e.g. investors, shareholders, governments, institutions, must take action now, otherwise mud and blood will be on their hands soon.  

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