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Brumadinho Tailings Dam Failure in Brazil

February 1, 2019, Emmanuel Grenier
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 Press Release


Dam Failure in Brazil


The International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) is following the situation very closely as information becomes available about the collapse of the mine tailings dam in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.



ICOLD President Michael F. Rogers made the following statement:


“Our deepest condolences go out to the people of Brazil impacted by this tragedy, especially those families who have lost loved ones and personal property in this disaster.


It will be important to understand the full cause of this failure so that important lessons may be shared with other nations and owners to prevent future dam failures.


Dams, including those structures design specifically to hold mine tailings are critical investments in our social economies for infrastructure and economic businesses. Like other large investments in infrastructure or business, dams provide essential services and also pose high risks that must be addressed during the planning, design, construction, operation and closure phases.   The precautionary principle of dams – both those that retain water as well as those that retain mine tailings – is to provide a safe environment to those who live downstream.  This is at the heart of the ICOLD Mission.


ICOLD has more than 90 years of experience in working with worldwide experts to develop state of practice guidelines and case histories for lessons learned on the design, construction, operation and closure of dams.  As an example, ICOLD has a draft Bulletin #181 on a technology update on Tailings Dam Design, which will be released later this year. After approval by the General Assembly during the 87th Annual Meeting in Ottawa.


National governments are urged to consider active participation in ICOLD to stay abreast of the most current technology of dam engineering, including the use of up-to-date ICOLD best-practice documents to support dam safety legislation.


As an organization of 100 nations committed to the safety of dams around the world, ICOLD stands ready to assist and support the project owner and the national dam safety organization in Brazil to assess the situation and work towards recovery.   ICOLD stands ready to collaborate with other Brazilian and international organizations such as the International Council on Mining and Metals to review the safety criteria for tailings dams to see if the current failure identifies necessary changes or updates to our practices, including the need to address the specific upstream construction method employed at the Brumadinho Tailings Dam.


I believe that safety is a moral obligation of each engineer and scientist that participates in the planning, design, construction, operation and closure of all dams.  This is an obligation by the absolute trust given by those downstream residents who are at risk imposed by the impoundment of water or mine tailings.


Again, our heartfelt condolences go out to the thousands of persons downstream of this dam that have been impacted by this tragedy and ICOLD stands ready to support Brazil in any way possible.”




Emmanuel Grenier, media manager


Tel: +33 147 04 17 80



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