1 million Cubic Meter Landslide From Ruins of Failed Fundao Dam


On January 27 the debris in the site of the former Fundao dam  shifted causing a 10 minute slide of 1 million cubic meters of material out of the site  and necessitating the evacuation of all workers. According to Paul Kiernan, WSJ, Samarco did not report the slide to authorities. The Extraordinary Commission on Dams of Minas Gerais who visited the site on Januray 29th have stated that there is imminent risk of further failure of material from the Fundao site.

This incident is also cited in the Civil Action against Samarco filed on 2/2/2016 by the Federal Prsoecutors Office in Linhares on behalf of fisherman who have suffered and are suffering economic loss of indeterminate future impact.  I was unable to get a Bing Translation from this pdf but understand that all fishing had been suspended as is the annual custom during the spawning of certain important native species.  During the time of suspension fisherman are compensated for agreeing not to fish.  The original failure on 11/5/2015 occurred during this spawning period. It is not clear what impacts the failure had on the protected spawning species or how long I will be before fishing can resume. com .  The public civil action against Samarco on behalf of fisherman cites the release on 1/27/2016 as 960,000 cubic meters. ( less that the 1 million threshold for classification as a “very Serious Failure”  in the Bowker Chambers 2015 classification of severity.

fish killed by mud samarco.png

Fish Killed By Samarco Dam Failure

“Members of the Special Commission on Dams MGSL (Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais) were to visit the Germano mine in Mariana, in the central region of the state, on Friday (29).( A estrutura pertencente à Samarco continua em pé, mas apresentou trincas após o rompimento de Fundão , em novembro do ano passado.) The structure belonging to Samarco is still standing, but showed cracks after the breakup of Fundão, in November last year. (Agora, os parlamentares querem verificar se o novo vazamento ocorrido na quarta-feira (27) no complexo das barragens não afetou o local.) Now, lawmakers want to make sure that the new leak occurred on Wednesday (27) in the complex of dams did not affect the site”(link to source in original language)

This is only the 36th recorded event in world history of a tailings dam release of 1 million cubic meters or more, the definition set in Bowker Chambers 2015 for  “very serious failure”.   That global study of trends in the severity of  tailings  dam failures  1910-2010 identified 29 authoritatively documented TSF ( Tailings Storage Facility) failures.  Since then a 1937 previously un documented catastrophic failure in Mexico has come to light and we had authoritatively documented 5 new “very serious” failures from 1/1/2010 to 12/31/2015 (including the Samarco on November 5th, the largest ever recorded in world history).

The January 27th post failure release of and additional 1 million cubic meters from the site brings the count of events for the decade ending  on the date of the “latest very serious failure” at Samarco’s  mine to 10 as compared with 7 for the decade ending 12/31/2009 as reported in Bowker Chambers 2015.

Although there are several events in recorded history of multiple very serious failures at the same mine and a few repeated at same TSF with a time interval of a few years, this is the first recorded  time in history 2nd major failure at the same TSF immediately following a first primary very significant release.

According to company statements following the 2nd “very serious failure” on Wedesday January 27th, there are 20 million cubic meters more at the obviously unsecured, usatble  site of the former dam.  There we no statements about  steps being taken to prevent the release of more of this 20 million cubic meters of material remaining in the site of the former Fundao dam.

After the first release of the  former dam on November 5th there was no evidence of any remaining structural component of the Fundao which was put on line c 2008-2010. ( see photo below). In statements after that failure Samrco eventually reported that structural assessment of the other two dams had been undertaken and that both were below the required 1.5 level.  They made no mention of any stability assessment at the failed Fundao site where this second release occurred  on January 27 or of any work planned there  to assess or stabilize any material in the site.  They did not describe or characterize the  material at the site of the former Fundao.

photo of two dams..

Fundao Dam Former Site Immediately After Failure

In their December 2015 report updating site conditions, repair and relief work no mention at all is made of the Fundao  site, only of the damaged Silenha dike and the damaged Santorem.  That report details the “state of the art” surveillance system  and use of drones to monitor stability and safety at the dam sites and makes no mention of the presence of 20 million cubic meters of material within the former  site of the Fundao dam.

This recurrence points to an apparent gap in the overall statutory and regulatory structure presently applicable to stability and safety at the site . There is no police power to force an independent stability assessment and an independent expert opinion prioritizing actions to prevent further damages at a level 30 times greater in magnitude well above the minimum level for “catastrophic”  potential impacts in the  Bowker Chambers 2015 severity classification .  The public continues to remain at the mercy of Samarco’s reassurances that priority in their decisions making post failure is to prevent further downstream damage.

The New Zealand parliament found itself in this same situation in 1996 when it became clear that the miner was not taking proper action to prevent a complete failure of the tailings dam at Golden Cross.  The flaw in the dam was known at acquisition by the miner and a focus of community demands for its proper indepedendent inspection and repair.  The miner, not very experienced and trying to build a global presence through acquisitions, had under estimated the cost and scope of work necessary to repair the known flaw.  When the inevitable and expected landslide occurred without breaching the dam the parliament met to deliberate whether they had given themselves sufficient power to intervene and realized they had not. In that case fortunately the miners excessive debt and other financial woes came to the rescue of the public interest and court proceedings provided $53 million out of assets towards the damages at the dam. which was successfully repaired and closed without a rupture.

This gap exists in almost all mining statutes and could be cured through creation of independent expert panels funded by applicant miners and those licensed via the overall regulatory framework for mining,  accountable to neither  regulator nor miner,  with clear accountability to investigate and direct action .

It is important to note that Samarco did have an Internal Tailings Review Panel ( membership and details unknown) which functioned as it should in red flagging  emerging stability and safety issues and offering alternative.  Where the ITRP adivce didn’t fit with Samarco’s greater commitment to maintain production costs at a certain level, the panel was ignored. This in essence is the testimony of Dr. Avila to police investigating a possible Environmental Crimes action against Samarco.

As that investigation progresses, there is still no way under existing law to compel independent assessment and action at Samarco’s expense of the actual security and stability of the former Fundao site and the damaged Dike and Santorem.


Town Of Mariana Where Samarco’s Failed Mine Located


We will be updating this post to bring in links to the referenced Golden Cross parallel, to Samarco’s previous statements and to the confirmation of  Samarco’s independent expert panel.  Most of this is already provided in other posts on the Samarco at this site.  Not all of our commentary and analysis is via this site.  Most, in fact is in a running e-roundtable with a multi disciplinary global network of experts, press, other researchers and other pubic interest groups. It is from this “e roundtable” that we will bring in the links.

As always, please contact me directly at lindsaynewlandbowker@gmail.com with any corrections, clarifications or further information related to this post.

February 2 2016 Stonington Maine

Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM, Environmental Risk Manager

Founder & Director Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest










We will add to and update this post with refernce

About lindsaynewlandbowker

Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, is an independent non profit providing self initiated pro bono analysis on key issues with a potential for massive adverse environmental impact . Bowker Associates has been an internationally recognized and cited voice in analysis of the Samarco failure, its consequence, and the possibilties for recovery. In 2017 we partnered with Daveid M. Chambers, a world leader in responsible mining, in our third joint work on the economics of tailings failures. Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. In the Dark Shadow of the Supercycle Tailings Failure Risk & Public Liability Reach All Time Highs. Environments 2017, 4, 75. http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3298/4/4/75 A peer reviewed journal published investigation of the cowboy economics of the supercycle and the resulting escalation on the number and magnitude of catastrophic failures. In 2016 we parnered with Dave Chambers in our 2nd joint work together looking at root causes of failures at a conference . Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. Root Causes of Tailings Management Failures: The Severity of Consequence of Failures Attributed to Overtopping 1915–2015. In Proceedings of the Protections 2016, Fort Collins, CO, USA, 14 June 2016. [Google Scholar] In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with geophysicist David M. Chambers to recompile global authoritative accounts of significant TSF failures in recorded history and to analyze these data in the context of global mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) The third annual update of this globally referenced and used compilation was just released at Researchgate. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324594429_World_Tailings_Dam_Failures_From_1915_-_as_of_Mar_31_2018) In 2014 Bowker Associates commissioned globally respected geophysicist and hydrogeologist Dr. David Chambers to undertake two technical works: (1) development of technical go no go criteria for vetting mine applications tp://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/a-new-statutory-regulatory-framework-for-responble-sulfide-mining-should-this-mine-be-built/ and (2) a case study of Maine's Bald Mountain, an un mined low grade high risk VMS deposit demonstrating the efficacy and accuracy of two risk assessment tools in vetting mine proposals https://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/mountain-x-would-you-issue-a-permit-to-this-mine/ In Maine, Bowker Associates has deeply engaged and been a public voice in the Searsport DCP LPG Tank, The Cianbro proposal for a Private East West Toll Road, JD Irvings rolling pipeline of Bakken crude to its plant in St. John and review of Phase II plans at The Callahan Superfund site in Brooksville, Maine, and Maine's revisitation of mining in statute and regulation... Our only “client”: is always “the pubic interest”. Our model is to focus on only one or two issues at a time so that we have a substantive command of the relevant field as our foundation for ongoing engagement. Our core work is in envirommental risk management, science and technology as well as bringing any available “best practices” models to the fore. The legal and regulatory history/best models are also a major thrust of our work in building and evaluating public policy. Director/Principal Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM is a recognized expert in Environmental Risk Management., Heavy Construction Risk Management and Marine and Transit Risks and has more than 3 decades of engagement in buiding public policy. Appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to New York State Banking Board (served 1986-1996); President New York Chapter Chartered Property and Casualty Insurers; Environmental Committee, Risk and Insurance Management Society; Director, Convenor/Co-Chair Bermuda Market Briefing "From Captive to Cats" Hamilton Bermuda. Published Articles of Significance The Risk Economics and Public Liability of Tailings Facility Failures, co-authored with David M. Chambers, July 2015 Beyond. Polarization: Superfund Reform in Perspective, Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control (Jan. 24, 1997). Lead Hazards and Abatement Technologies in Construction: A Risk Management Approach CPCU Journal 1997 Employee Leasing: Liability in Limbo Risk Management June 1 1997 Environmental Audit Privilege and the Public interest Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control, April 1997 Asbestos:Holes In Abatement Policies Need To Be Plugged, Lloyd’s Environmental Risk International, May 1993 Editor Published Letters Evironmental Risk Management Beware of Facile Policies Like Fetal Protection Business Insurance 1995(?) High Court Review May Increase Sale of Bank Annuities Business Insurances August 8, 1995 Professional Profiles Protecting the Big Apple’s Core Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Control December 1996 Major Career Highlights First rigorous analysis showing Relationship Between declining ore grades and TSF Failures of increasing consequence ( July 2015) FIrst Documentation that Gentrification Has Same Impacts as Unassisted Displacement from Urban Renewal Sites Direted Court Ordered EIS of FHA Mortgage Scandal Created Nation's First Homeownership Program for Low Income People (SHIP) Created Earliest Geographic Information Systems Using Defense Technology Developed By IBM Designed and Conducted Parallel Census Count to Show Systematic undercount in minority neighborhoods Documented Bias in ISO Territory Rating Plans for Private Passenger Auto Insurance Using ISO's own Rating Techniques Demonstrated Inherent Bias in Mortgage Policies of Banks With Inner City Branches Demonstrated that NY Telephones Plan for Area Code Split To accommodate anticipated cell phone demand was not efficient and would exhaust in 5 years ( which it did) Undertook First Systematic Evaluation of Child Protective Services Caseload Using Multi Variate Analyic Techniques Developed Child Protective Caseload Management and Tracking System (CANTS) and directed implementation in 4 client states including Illinois, Florida and New York Created and Ran Office of Risk Management for NYC DEP the Nations largest Water & Sewer Authority . Designed, Created and Administered Nation's First Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)for High Risk Tunneling Education Masters NYU Graduate School of Public Administration BSC New School For Social Research Maine Public Schools Deering High School
This entry was posted in alegria mine, Analysis TSF Failures, Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, Brazil 's High Grade Iron Ores, Causes Of Catastrophic Tailings Dam Failures, corporatocracy, Environmental Risk Management, Fundao Talings Dam, Germano Tailings Dam Failure, Height Limits of Earthen Dams, Highly Valued Natural Resources, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Linhares Civil Action Against Samarco, Measuring Magnitude of Consequence TSF Failures, Metallic Mining Risk Management, Mine Feasibility, Mine Risk Management, Mining Economics, Mining Environmental Crimes, mining environmental risk management, Mining Financial Feasibility, Samarco falha de barragem de rejeitos, Samarco investigação de crimes ambientais, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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