Video: Brumadinho, Brazil Tailings Dam Collapse

A tailings dam collapsed on January 25, 2019 sending a torrent of material onto the town of Brumadinho in southeastern Brazil. The tragedy killed at least 157 people, and 182 are still missing. The video below appears to show what we geotechnical engineers would refer to as a “brittle” failure (as opposed to a progressive one with more warning). It is truly a tragic event for the people of Brazil, and the mining industry as well.

The dam, owned by Vale S.A., was constructed using the upstream raise method. Most media outlets that attempt to describe the facility and the failure don’t understand the basics of tailings impoundments. As much as people want to understand why this happened, it will be some time until the failure mechanisms are understood as investigations unfold. And who knows if thoese studies will ever make it back to industry. In the meantime, Brazilian officials are holding Vale executives and their consultants accountable and there have been 8 arrests recently.