Colorado & Brazil mine disasters kill two rivers in 2015.

Contaminated Rio Doce Water Flows into the Atlantic (23414457121).jpg
NASA Earth Observatory image shows toxic mud reaching Atlantic Ocean.
Contaminated Rio Doce Water Flows into the Atlantic. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

The Basics to understand 2 of the worst environmental disasters from this year. The short of it is that twin mining disasters have killed two rivers. The long-term punchline is this: figuring out how to respond to these disasters will shape the future because of how they affect trans-boundary water systems and the $$$ involved.

Animas River Before & After (Durango Herald)


  • August 5, 2015: EPA employees & contractors, working on cleaning up an abandoned gold mine in Colorado, instead release toxic waste water from a breached dam. Contaminants from Gold King Mine flood Cement Creek and then the Animas River, turning the whole thing bright yellow.

  • November 5, 2015: a dam holding back waste from an iron ore mine ruptures, sending toxic mud into the Doce River in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. More than a dozen people die immediately and the river is turned bright red, killing all forms of wildlife. Contaminants from the Brazilian-English/Australian Samarco Mineração mine travel down the Doce and reach the Atlantic Ocean on November 22, 2015. This means that the southern Atlantic Ocean will feel the detrimental impacts.

  • ### years: the EPA is keeping quiet, but it's going to take years before the Animas River will be cleaned up. During that time, communities that live on the basin will face potentially lethal contaminants and the farming/ranching industries fed by the river are done.

  • 100 years: Brazilian marine biologist Andres Ruchi told the BBC to expect that the southern Atlantic Ocean (!!!) and the Doce River would be compromised for at least 100 years. 

  • Navajo Nation rejected by FEMA: the EPA-caused spill has flowed into Navajo land, which means that ground water is contaminated and houses near the river are not suitable for human habitation. But FEMA has rejected tribal president Russell Begaye's request to help with clean-up.

  • Doce River Species Extinct: "The biodiversity of the river is completely lost," said Rio-based researcher Aloysio Ferrão. "Several species, including endemic ones must be extinct."

  • $### : the EPA isn't saying how much it's going to cost to clean up the Animas disaster.

  • Brazilian gov't sues for $5.2billion: $260million pledged by Samarco Mining Co. is not enough, according to the Brazilian government, which has initiated a $5.2billion lawsuit against Samarco and its two parent companies: BHP Billiton and Vale.
  Flooding after Bento Rodrigues dam breach.gif
"Flooding after Bento Rodrigues dam breach" by NASA - http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=86990. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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