It is reported that at 4.20pm local time yesterday a dam was breached at the Samarco Alegria iron-ore mine, releasing a flow of water and mud into the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The flood is reported to have caused at least 17 fatalities with a further 45 missing. The remaining inhabitants of the town, and other nearby settlements, have been evacuated to the local capital, Mariana, and rescue services are currently in attendance.
The mine is operated by Samarco Mineracao, a joint venture between BHP Billiton and the Brazilian mining corporation, Vale S.A. Samarco is one of the world's largest iron ore mines, with annual production in excess of 20 million tons. The cause of the breach remains to be determined, as does any wider environmental impact that may have been suffered. The dam is located near to the Gualaxo do Norte river.