By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As rescue workers continue to look for nineteen people who are still missing after two dams broke near the town of Mariana, Minas Gerais on November 5th, a third dam is threatening to collapse. Drones sent to the areas where the dams are located found a crack about three meters long in the Germano dam, the third and only structure which did not collapse in the Samarco plant unit.
Although the company has stated that there is no threat of a break in this third dam, company officials have said that emergency work has been authorized as an added precaution.
Of the nine bodies found, three have not yet been identified. Rescue teams are now spreading out over a thirty-kilometer area to look for the missing bodies.
While environmentalists demand that the plant be closed down indefinitely, Mariana’s mayor, Duarte Junior, told Agencia Brasil that the end of mining operations in the area would mean ‘closing down the city’. “To have mining operations close here would mean that basic services would have to be halted and four thousand people would lose their jobs,” said Duarte Junior during the interview.
According to the mayor, the city and nearby regions survive economically due to the revenues which come from mining operations. “Mining represents eighty percent of our municipality’s revenues,” said the official. “I have to admit and say that our city has not worked on trying to diversify our economy,” he added.
Environmentalists say the area along the Rio Doce (Sweet River) and the area surrounding the dams will take hundreds of years to recover from the contamination of the residue water produced by the mining processing plant.