Imerys mining company’s chemical deposit explodes and catches fire in Barcarena, Pará

An explosion followed by fire occurred on Monday night (6) in a chemical deposit of the multinational mining company Imerys, in the Vila do Conde neighborhood, in the city of Barcarena, Pará.

In this unit of the company, sodium hydrosulfite, a grayish-white chemical with a characteristic sulfur dioxide smell, would be stored. A white smoke with this odor filled the city at dawn on Tuesday (7), as recorded by residents in videos posted on social networks.

According to a note released by the City of Barcarena, under the management of Renato Ogawa (PL), a team from Samu and two ambulances were deployed to the region. “About 49 consultations were carried out, with mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory distress”, he informs.

Also according to the municipal management, the Barcarena Environment Department notified Imerys to present the Chemical Product Safety Information Sheet (FISPQ), the company’s contingency plan and the air quality report.

In placement in your account do Twitter the governor of Pará, Helder Barbalho (MDB), said he is in contact with the City Hall of Barcarena to offer help and “take appropriate action”.

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Since the morning of Tuesday (7), members of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) traveled to the region in order to provide organizational support and solidarity to the families.

Iury Paulino, from the national coordination of the MAB and a resident of Belém (PA) says that the residents’ reports are of “difficulty breathing, problems with the mouth, eyes and skin”.

For Paulino, the moment is one of uncertainty, as the mining company does not have any information about the health consequences of exposure to the smoke of these chemicals.

“It’s another sad fact that demonstrates the disrespect for the implementation of large projects in the Amazon. Above all, speaking of that region, which is a constant victim of leaks in the hydro”, assesses the MAB coordinator.

“These are communities that are constantly being harmed by the progress of these companies, the construction projects of port terminals and the irresponsible practice from the point of view of care and safety that these companies conduct in their actions”, says Iury Paulino.

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A démarche with state deputies from Pará, accompanied by representatives of the Brazilian Bar Association and social movements will take place on the spot next Thursday (9).

The purpose of the commission’s visit is to assess the extent of the accident’s impacts on the population and the environment, as well as indicate the necessary measures to protect and assist the affected people.

O Brazil in fact contacted Imerys and did not receive a response until this matter was closed.

Background

Imerys extracts and processes calcium carbonate, kaolin and perlite ores. Present in Brazil since 1996, the French multinational is in the states of Pará, São Paulo and Espírito Santo.

The location in Barcarena is strategic for the export of ores, as the Port of Vila do Conde, the largest in Pará, was built there.

According to the MAB, this is the tenth incident involving Imerys in the past 25 years.

O Fiocruz Conflict Map points out that in June 2007 there was a spill of more than 200 thousand cubic meters of kaolin. The product reached the Rio das Cobras basin, the beaches and artesian wells of residents of Vila do Conde.

In addition, the risk of failure of a mining company’s tailings dam forced, according to a Fiocruz report, that 73 people were removed from their homes. In March 2008, a new leak in the tailings basin aggravated the contamination of water in the region.

The tailings from kaolin mining contain a high concentration of metals such as iron, aluminum, zinc and cadmium.

Edition: Anelize Moreira

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