On Friday, January 25, 2019, the dam of an iron mine collapsed in Brumadinho, in southeast Brazil. The surrounding area, south of Belo Horizonte, was buried under a huge stream of mud with mining waste. Houses, people and animals have been dragged along and buried under 12 million cubic metres of sludge that also contains a mixture of toxic metals, as has already been established by scientific research. This undoubtedly has major consequences for the health of local residents and the surrounding ecosystem. It is sad to see that a large river (the Paraopeba), from which drinking water is drawn for the population of the metropolis Belo Horizonte, is now totally unsuitable for this purpose because of the pollution of the mining waste.
The brothers of the Congregation of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy in Brazil are very concerned about the victims. Brother Henrique Matos ministers as a prison chaplain in the municipality of São Joaquim de Bicas, 12 km from Brumadinho.
“It is an attack on nature,” says Brother Henrique. “A destruction of life caused by a calculated human action. Mining companies cultivate a new idolatry: money is the only thing that matters. In Bicas we have witnessed in the recent past other forms of this destructive action of mining companies. They have great economic power, and from a political point of view, it is clear that these companies are in control. They keep the population in ‘prison’ by making them completely dependent on their policies. It is sad to see that a few tons of iron ore are worth more than life … Not only human life but also the life of all other creatures and nature.
Let us be freed from the chains imposed by these companies that, with regard to their own self-interest and the interest of their shareholders (inside and ouside the country) lock us up in the “small cells”.
Brother Henrique Matos concludes: “May the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady Aparecida, the Black Madonna and Patroness of Brazil, be our advocate. May we are not become discouraged when confronted by such great challenges. Let us not be guided by false promises that are intended to blind us to the truth of the Gospel, the ‘good news’ of Life for all, but above all, blind us to the reality of the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society as well as the reality of the situation of our planet Earth”.