On January 25th, the tailing dam in Brumadinho broke off releasing 11,3 million cubic meters of tailings from the extraction of iron ore.

There are 248 deaths confirmed and 28 people are still missing.

In addition to the deaths of people, the dam failure resulted in several environmental problems for the city of Brumadinho, nearby cities and throughout Brazil. According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Brasil), the mining tailings took 125 hectares of forests, responsible for agribusiness, and in a few hours, it arrives to Paraopeba river affecting Indigenous communities that depended on the water of the river. 

Global Road Technology can assist both in the prevention of such disasters, providing reduction of risks to worker’s health during the process of ore extraction and also reducing environmental impacts.

Extraction and transport of materials 

The movement of light or heavy vehicles over a soil with considerable content of fine particles results in dust on the roads, which it affects the industry by reducing productivity, causing diseases to workers and damaging the environment and so on.

Productivity is affected by the reduction of speed in places with dust generation. Decreased visibility can also result in several accidents. 

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Dust generated in the mining can carry substances in the soil that cause respiratory diseases, allergic and depending of exposition it causes the pulmonary cancer. In the extraction of iron ore, that is the same of Brumadinho for example, the dust containing iron when it’s breathed can cause the siderose or even the sideranosilicosis, when it presents silica and iron.

For haul roads, the use of GRT: Haul-Loc or GRT: 7000 makes it possible to travel the dust-free road, that is, maximize productivity, reduce accidents and also preventing diseases in workers. GRT: Haul-loc is a concentrated polymer developed to make water work in dust suppression, by extending the effectiveness of water sprayed for dust suppression. 

The GRT: 7000 is pavement polymer sealant that is used to prevent water seeping into pavement layers and also prevent dust. It creates a road more trafficable, safety and long term because prevent from potholes and other distress caused by water infiltration. That is, GRT:7000 is sprayed on the soil surface and has a life cycle of 4 months depending on traffic. 

Tailings storage

As shown in the first article of this series, mining tailings can be stored in two ways: dry or wet. When it’s dry, this tailing is stored in the form of stockpiles and can suffer wind erosion or dust generation due to the content of fine materials, especially the fraction of silt. 

These problems in dry storage can be prevented by using GRT: Ore-Loc, a robust liquid polymer applied to stockpiles to create a protective layer to prevent the influence of wind and dust generation. The application is simple and fast being carried out by spraying a mixture of GRT: Ore-Loc and water on the stockpile surface.

Repairing Earthen Dams – GRT: DamSealer

Previously we presented the main dam defects, which the leak is responsible for most of ruptures. To prevent the leakage process from culminating in the rupture of the structure, GRT developed the GRT: DamSealer.

GRT: DamSealer is a complex matrix of soluble and insoluble polymers designed to find and seal leaks from tailings and water storage dams. Through the currents caused by the leaks, the product finds problem areas sealing leaks. GRT: DamSealer is applied on the dam surface at a rate of approximately 100g per square metre. 

Erosion of Dam Walls – GRT: Enviro-Binder

The unsealed faces of earthen dam walls are susceptible to erosion by rainfall and overland flow. This can lead to scouring and the channelization of water further exacerbating the affects of water erosion. GRT: Enviro-Binder is a hydraulically applied, highly effect erosion prevention solution, simply sprayed onto to any soil surface. This prevents water erosion damaging embankments, limits the infiltration of water into the structure, and stops the siltation of downstream waterways.

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Natural disaster, demolition sites and dam breaks – GRT: Rubble-Loc

In Brumadinho, over the days the tailings begin to lose moisture and the fine particles are carried through the air causing dust. As explained before this dust is harmful to people’s health and can further aggravate the problems of the region.

For places such as Brumadinho, GRT: Rubble-Loc prevent from harmful dust with silica, iron or asbestos be carried by air. The range of GRT products and its various applications enable the use of technology during all the process of project, construction, maintenance and management. Furthermore, we understand that dust is not only a nuisance, but a risk to people.

Disasters such as occurred in Brumadinho teach us that engineering needs constant innovations and structure monitoring. Often maintenance is delayed because we think that nothing bad will happen, but they occur and results in much higher costs than those periodic maintenance.