Rescue workers search for victims at Bento Rodrigues district that was covered with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst, in Mariana, Brazil, November 8, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

(P1) A river of mud from BURST DAMS at a Brazilian IRON ORE MINE forced populous cities more than 300 km (200 miles) DOWNSTREAM to CUT OFF drinking water on Monday, raising health and environmental concerns.

(P2) Twenty-five people are still missing after one of the worst mining disasters in Brazil’s history. Officials confirmed two deaths since Thursday’s tragedy and are working to identify two more bodies recovered on Sunday.

(P3) EXHAUSTED search teams waded through deep mud in Bento Rodrigues, the village most DAMAGED by the MUDSLIDES. The 600-person community stood IN THE SHADOW OF the broken dams, located about a six-hour car ride north of Rio de Janeiro, in the heart of Brazil’s iron ore region.

(P4) Intense flooding swept through towns as far as 100 km (62 miles) away after the dams burst at two RESERVOIRS holding mining waste. Four days later, the CONTAMINATED mud is still running past the well-populated banks of the Rio Doce river.

(P5) Governador Valadares, a city of 280,000, cut off its water supply for over 24 hours and will keep testing the water until the mud passes, officials said on Monday.

(P6) Health authorities are checking the TOXICITY of the waters and told residents who came in contact with the mud to throw out their clothing. Biologists warn that the environmental impact may be permanent, DEVASTATING local fisheries and farms.

(P7) Residents and officials have also criticized what they say has been LAX communication by mine operator Samarco, a JOINT VENTURE between the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd, and the biggest iron ore miner, Vale SA.

(P8) The mayor of nearby Mariana, Duarte Junior, said Monday that both BHP and Vale need to take responsibility for relief efforts, not just Samarco.

(P9) BHP said Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive officer of the Australian company, would visit Brazil early in the week to assess the situation.

(P10) Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira visited Mariana on Saturday, but did not speak with reporters. The Brazilian company has offered HELICOPTERS and other equipment for the rescue effort.

(P11) Officials have not determined the cause of the disaster, but a public PROSECUTOR says a 2013 study showed flaws in the design of one of the dams. Workers were ENLARGING the dam when it burst, UNLEASHING some 55 million cubic meters of WASTE WATER.

(P12) The tragedy has GALVANIZED government officials, ENVIRONMENTALISTS, and OUTRAGED residents to call for tighter regulation of the powerful mining industry.

(P13) “Now is the time for a national debate about what we want from mining, and at what cost,” said Antonio Carlos de Oliveira, a state prosecutor weighing the environmental impact of the disaster. He and other prosecutors will meet on Wednesday to discuss their next steps, he said.

WORDS: 450



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Have there been any disasters in your country in recent years?
  3. Is mining or EXTRACTION a major industry in your country? What is mined or extracted – gold, silver, diamonds, oil, etc?
  4. Is the TAP WATER in your city nice for drinking, or do you prefer to use bottled water?
  5. Have you ever experienced flood conditions in your neighborhood?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Iron ore
  • In the shadow of
  • Cut off
  • Joint venture
  • Waste water
  • Tap water

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