No natural disasters

No natural disasters

The term ‘natural disasters’ is ubiquitous. The term is used widely in press and media reports, government and aid agency literature and general discourse amongst the public. However, since 1756 some have been questioning this term. There is no such thing as a natural disaster. If we recognise and accept the standard definition of disaster as a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity then we must consider human involvement at the core of the event. A hazard will only become

I bacini dopo il crollo. Il materiale fangoso contenuto nel bacino inferiore mosse verso l'esterno non in forma di crollo, ma di vero e proprio scroscio con balzo verso l'alto..

Failures of tailings dams – A growing trend

A simple analysis of the number of incidents affecting tailings dams (total failures, as at the Fundão tailings dam uphill of Bento Rodrigues in Brazil, or partial failures, as at the Merriespruit tailings dam in South Africa) shows us that there is a growing trend. Since the systematic survey of failures of tailings dams started in 1961, there were 22 incidents up to 1971, with an average of 2.2 incidents per year. Then, from 2009 to 2019, 36 incidents occurred, with an average of 3.6 incidents per year. This growing trend over recent years is witnessed by the fact that

The Córrego de Feijão tailings dam failure – 2019

On 25th January 2019, at Brumadinho in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, a mine waste deposit, made up of several tailings dams, serving the Córrego de Feijão iron mine, collapsed and generated a huge mudflow. First, it struck the mine facilities and after a few minutes the town of Brumadinho, located some 7 km downstream. 259 people lost their lives and 11 persons went missing. The mudflow, with a total volume of 12 million cubic metres, caused severe environmental damage and the destruction of numerous buildings and a railway bridge. There was fear that a fourth tailings dam, damaged

The Fundão tailings dams failure, 2015

On 5th November 2015, the Fundão tailings dam, in the district of Mariana, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, failed. It contained waste material from the Germano iron mine, managed by Samarco Society, a joint venture between the Anglo-Australian Bhp-Billington and the Brazilian Vale, which are two of the most important multinational mining companies worldwide. A mudflow exceeding 30 million cubic metres struck the village of Bento Rodrigues, which was completely destroyed. In addition, the flow ran down the rivers Gualaxo do Norte, Carmel and Rio Doce for over 660 kilometres, eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean about two weeks after failure.

The Ajka tailings dam failure, 2010

Around 12:30 hrs of 4th October 2010, the north-western corner of a vast reservoir containing some 30 million cubic metres of waste from an aluminium factory in the village of Ajka, in western Hungary, suddenly collapsed, giving rise to a red mud flow of nearly 1 million cubic metres, which poured out over the surrounding countryside causing an environmental catastrophe. The collapse of the Ajka reservoir on 4th October 2010 The village of Kolontár was struck and partly submerged by the large mass of water mixed with toxic mud from the failed reservoir, taking the inhabitants of the area by

The Venosta Valley railway disaster, 2010

On 12th April 2010, a 10-15 metre wide landslide affecting some 400 cubic metres of rock and soil, fell onto the railway line of the Venosta valley between the stations of Laces and Castelbello in South Tyrol (northern Italy), just when a local train heading to Meran was passing. The violent impact of the landslide caused the derailing of the train. The first car in the convoy was completely destroyed, 9 persons were killed and 28 more were injured, some of them seriously. Water percolation into the soil, caused by a spill from an irrigation system, generated the landslide. The

The Taoshi tailings dam failure, 2008

On 8th September 2008, at 8:00 hrs, a mud and mine debris wiped out in just a few minutes the little mining centre of Taoshi, in the city of Linfen, in Xiangfen County, China. 128 persons were confirmed dead, but hundreds more were missing. Bulldozers and 2,000 workers and firefighters continued to search with little hope, while anger was growing over a man-made disaster that could have been avoided. The residents complained that hundreds were “missing”, and accused the state-run television, radio, and press outlets of “lying” to minimize the disaster. Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers “monitored” the area, possibly

Lodrone di Storo

The Lodrone di Storo landslide, 2000

A landslide of 500 thousand cubic metres of earth and rocks loomed high over Lodrone and its two thousand inhabitants. Lodrone belongs to the municipality of Storo in the province of Trento (Italy), not far from the border with the province of Brescia. The alarm was raised in September 2000 by a hunter who had noticed a number of deep cracks in the ground on the right-hand side of the Santa Barbara valley, as well as an unusual abundance of water in the Santa Barbara river itself. In their first checks, the geologists from the Autonomous Province of Trento suggested

The Baia Borsa mineral waste facility failure, 2000

On 10th March 2000 torrential rains (37 litres/m2 according to a local weather station) and melting snow from the slopes surrounding the Novat artificial reservoir at a mine in Baia Borsa, Maramures region, Romania, led to an unmanageable rise in the reservoir’s water level. At about 11:00 a.m. on 10th March, approximately 20,000 tonnes of mineral waste was flushed into the River Viseu from the decantation reservoir of the Baia Borsa Preparation Enterprise mine. The waste been stored following the processing of complex ores of lead, copper and zinc. The accident led to pollution of the River Vaser with minerals

The Baia Mare tailings dam failure, 2000

On 30th January 2000 at 22:00 hrs, a breach in the tailings dam of the Aurul S.A. Baia Mare Company, released some 100,000 m3 of cyanide-rich tailings waste into the river system near Baia Mare in north-west Romania (Maramures district). This spill released an estimated 50-100 tonnes of cyanide, as well as heavy metals, particularly copper, into the rivers Somes, Tisza and finally into the Danube before reaching the Black Sea. Aurul S.A. is a stock company, jointly owned by “Esmeralda Exploration Ltd.”, Australia, and the Romanian “Compania Nationala a Metalelor Pretiosasi si Neferoase”, established in 1992. The company processes