Missing Mountaintops And Disappearing Rivers In Minas Gerias

Personal memory by Paula Gabriela Woodsome

2022 CEBelo Horizonte, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil

I'm from Belo Horizonte in Brazil, which translates to "beautiful horizon". Throughout my life, the mining company Valle has continually removed mountain tops surrounding my city. The city's namesake, its beautiful horizon has been made ugly through one company's greed. But the company has destroyed more than mountaintops in my life. In 2019 a dam Valley had built to contain waste runoff broke, flooding the nearby town of Brumadinho with toxic pit water, killing 270 people. Thousands of residents lost their homes and were forced to move, the city's once booming tourism industry collapsed and mining waste from the reservoir poisoned the land below the break, which led to more people getting sick. I don't think we'll ever know how many people were made sick or died because of this tragedy, and the land is ruined forever. People say Valle could have fixed their old dams, but chose not to, knowing it would be cheaper to pay-off poor families affected from potential breaks than it would be to repair or replace old and failing structures.

I have another memory, of a place where I went swimming growing up next to my grandma's house in Betim. To get there, my dad would drive me down dirt roads through the woods. It was a big event, and I loved being out in nature. When a Fiat car factory expanded, and unplanned development boomed in the area, the river disappeared and now all I see is asphalt. This area of the city was called Prainha, which means "little beach", but now the little beach is gone and you can't even tell where it was. This was 30 years ago and it hurts me to look at this place where I once enjoyed nature, to see nothing of what it used to be.

Ibama from Brasil, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons