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Mine collapse: expert says the environment is already suffering the consequences

In an interview with CNN the specialist in Biodiversity and Management of Conservation Units from the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL), Neirevane Nunes, warns about the impacts on flora and fauna caused by the sinking of the Mundaú lagoon region, close to Braskem’s 18 mine, which runs risk of imminent collapse.

“With this sinking, we have already lost around 15 hectares of mangroves, this has a major impact on the production chain, fish and the production of the sururu mollusk.”

According to the researcher, 60% of mine 18 is already inside the lagoon. “The soil movement process is dynamic. Even though we have observed a decrease in the speed of sinking, it continues, it is permanent. That area will continue to feel the tremors.”

The expert argues that to mitigate the risks, the area must continue to be monitored and studied. “We need monitoring in relation to the impacts of fauna and flora. In addition to mine 18, we have other mines at risk of collapse. At least two mines have already merged, we need to continue with this research and publish this data”.

Error sequence

The biodiversity specialist cites a succession of errors that culminated in the collapse:

  • The installation of the mining company in an urban area;
  • Opening of 35 mines along the shore of the lagoon without respecting safety limits. “The diameter should be 70 meters and the distance from one mine wall to another should be 100m”;
  • The mines were opened on top of a geological fault;
  • Failure in monitoring and inspection;
  • Sand used to fill the mines came from a permanent preservation area.

“We do not have access to studies of the environmental impacts of these mines. We could have avoided reaching this critical state, it was a succession of environmental crimes”, says Neirevane.

Understand the case

Maceió City Hall declared an emergency situation, last Wednesday (29), due to the imminent risk of collapse of a Braskem petrochemical mine in Lagoa Mundaú, in the Mutange neighborhood. According to the state government, there were five earthquakes in the area in November, and the possible collapse could cause the formation of large craters in the region.

The Alagoas Civil Defense warned that a rupture at the site could have a ripple effect on other mines.

What the company says

Braskem reported that it continues to be mobilized and monitoring the situation at mine 18, located in the Mutange neighborhood, in Maceió. The petrochemical company says it uses state-of-the-art equipment to ensure the detection of any soil movement. The risk region has been isolated since Tuesday (28) and the company has been supporting the relocation of residents of 23 properties in the region.

“Rock salt extraction in Maceió was completely closed in May 2019, and Braskem has been adopting measures to definitively close the salt wells, according to the plan presented to the authorities and approved by the National Mining Agency (ANM). This plan records 70% progress in the actions, and the completion of the work is scheduled for mid-2025”, said the company.

Maceió Mines

Braskem’s mines in Maceió are caves opened by the extraction of rock salt during decades of mining in the region. These caves have been closed since 2019, when the Brazilian Geological Survey (SGB) confirmed that the activity carried out had caused the phenomenon of soil sinking in the region, which forced the closure of a series of neighborhoods in the capital of Alagoas.

Still in 2018, similar damage was identified in properties and streets in the Mutange neighborhood, located below Pinheiro and on the banks of Lagoa Mundaú; and in the Bebedouro neighborhood neighboring the other two. In June 2019, residents of the Bom Parto neighborhood reported serious damage to properties.

Since then, the Federal Public Ministry in Alagoas (MPF-AL) has been following the case, having taken over, in December 2018, the investigation of the facts and initiated preventive action in favor of the residents.

In July of this year, the city council reached an agreement with the company assuring the municipality of compensation of R$1.7 billion due to the subsidence of the neighborhoods, which began in 2018.

Source: CNN Brasil

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