On Friday 25 January 2019, a dam of an iron mine collapsed in Brumadinho, the southeast of Brazil. The surrounding area, south of Belo Horizonte, was buried under a huge stream of mud with mining waste. Houses, people and animals have been dragged along and buried under 12 million cubic metres of sludge that also contains a mixture of toxic metals, as has already been established by scientific research. This undoubtedly has major consequences for the health of local residents and the surrounding ecosystem. It is sad to see that a large river (the Paraopeba), from which drinking water is drawn for the population of the metropolis Belo Horizonte, is now totally unsuitable for this purpose because of the pollution of the mining waste.
The brothers in Brazil are very concerned about the victims. Brother Henrique Matos works in the prison chaplaincy in the municipality of São Joaquim de Bicas, 12 km from Brumadinho.
“It is an attack on nature,” says Brother Henrique. “A destruction of life caused by a calculated human action. Mining companies cultivate a new idolatry: money is the only thing that matters. In Bicas we have witnessed more of these destructive actions of mining companies in the recent past. They have a huge economic power, and also politically they are in control. They keep the population in ‘prison’ by making them completely dependent on their policies. It is sad to see that a few tonnes of iron ore are worth more than life. Not only the human life but also the life of all other creatures and nature.
Let us be freed from the chains imposed by these companies, which lock us up in the small cell of their own interests and those of their shareholders inside and outside the country.
May the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady Aparecida, the Black Madonna and Patroness of Brazil, be our advocate. So that we are not discouraged by such great challenges. Let us not be guided by false promises that turn us away from the truth of the Gospel, the ‘good news’ of Life for all, but above all for the most vulnerable and defenceless, including Earth itself,” concludes Brother Henrique Matos.