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volcanic eruption

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2 Still with a partner, discuss these questions.

Respostas pessoais. Professor/a, espera-se que os/as estudantes usem seu conhecimento de mundo para discutir as questões e percebam que o ser humano pode ser o causador de muitos desastres. Por exemplo, um teste nuclear pode provocar um tremor de terra, o desmatamento pode levar à erosão do solo e a deslizamentos de terra etc. Esses desastres podem provocar mortes, doenças, falta de recursos básicos (como água e luz) e perda de moradia e de bens materiais. Podem, também, afetar o meio ambiente, causando contaminação do solo, da água ou do ar, matando espécies animais e vegetais (ou até mesmo extinguindo-as) ou modificando a paisagem e as características do local onde ocorrem.

a How can human influences trigger disasters like those in activity 1?

b What problems can disasters like earthquakes, floods, landslides and water contamination cause to the population and to the environment?

c Can you think of a famous natural/environmental disaster?

3 Read the title of the text in activity 4 and discuss these questions.

a Which environmental disaster from activity 1 does it mention? Dam burst.

b Where and when did it happen? It happened in Brazil (Minas Gerais), in 2015.

c What do you know about this disaster?

Respostas pessoais.

d In your opinion, was this disaster natural or caused by human interference?

Respostas pessoais.

e What kinds of problems did the population probably face?

Water contamination and the death of fish and aquatic life, destruction of housing, floods and human injuries and losses.


4 Now read the text and check your answers to activity 3.


Brazilian mine disaster releases dangerous metals

The collapse in November of a mining dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, which resulted in the inundation of a whole town under a sea of mud contaminated with toxic iron ore waste and silica, was one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.

Luisa Massarani


“Both the mine operator […] and the Brazilian authorities have come under fire from UN rapporteurs for their negligence in failing to take measures to avert the accident.

The environmental disaster that has followed the collapse of a dam at a Brazilian mine on 5 November has caused unprecedented damage in that country and will have irreversible negative effects on human health and the environment, according to experts.

The accident buried the small historic town of Bento Rodrigues, a subdistrict of Mariana, under mud. At least 11 people have died and more than 600 were displaced. In addition, the water supply of more than 250,000 people in the area was interrupted as it was contaminated with heavy metals.

Tonnes of mud made up of iron ore waste and silica, originally estimated to be about 25,000 Olympic swimming pools in volume, have spread over 800 km and reached one of the largest Brazilian rivers, the Rio Doce. The contaminated mud, in which the Minas Gerais Institute of Water Management has found toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese at levels exceeding drinking

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water limits, has reached the coast of the state of Espírito Santo. It could potentially impact the wider marine ecosystem.

The risks go beyond the particular chemical elements found in this mud. Dam water was also contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Many are blaming the disaster on […] the Brazilian mining company in charge of the dams. The company is a joint venture between [two mining giants from Brazil and Australia].

More dams at risk

Although it was initially announced that two dams had collapsed in the mine, representatives of the National Department of Mining Production surveyed that area by air and have confirmed that only the Fundão dam collapsed. They warned, however, that […] Santarém dam has been ‘overrun’ and remains at risk of collapse, as does the company’s Germano dam.

‘As there was never an environmental incident of this magnitude, it is impossible to calculate the real impact right now,’ says Klemens Laschefski, a researcher at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

‘The changes in the flow of the river in respect to the currents and the new geochemical conditions in the sediments will bring profound ecosystem changes, which will also influence the species, including […] the possibility of disappearance of endemic species,’ Laschefski warns. In addition, he says water plants in the area are endangered because the mud that now covers them will eventually harden like cement, due to its high iron content.

Aloysio da Silva Ferrão Filho, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, agrees that the situation is dire. ‘The entire ecosystem is under threat and the impacts can even reach the marine food chain, possibly even the Abrolhos coral reefs, which are quite sensitive to sedimentation of inorganic material,’ he told Chemistry World.

Ferrão says these effects can last for decades. He says the high concentrations of heavy metals in the water samples from the Rio Doce could lead to the bioaccumulation of metals in the food chain, and possibly reach toxic levels in some organisms.


Available at . Accessed on January 13, 2016. Occasional linguistic adjustments to fit standard language marked with [ ]. Suppressions for pedagogical purposes (omission of excerpts with inadequate language level or advertising) marked with […].

5 Answer these questions in your notebook.

a What happened in Bento Rodrigues?

The town was buried under contaminated mud made up of iron ore waste and silica after a dam collapsed.

b What damage did this disaster cause to the population and to the environment?

c What could the future consequences of this disaster be?

The death of at least 11 people and the displacement of more than 600; the interruption of water supply for more than 250,000 people in the area due to contamination; the destruction of the town; changes in river flow and geochemical conditions in the sediments, which threatens the entire ecosystem.

6 Read the text again. In your notebook, match the places to the information presented about them.

Profound effects on the ecosystem, disappearance of endemic species and water plants in the area, bioaccumulation of metals in the food chain (possibly reaching toxic levels in some organisms), among others.

a Abrolhos V

b Espírito Santo IV

c Fundão VI

d Bento Rodrigues II

e Rio Doce III

f Santarém I

I The name of one of the dams that may collapse.

II A subdistrict of Mariana.

III The river that was devastated by the disaster.

IV A state whose coast was contaminated by toxic substances.

V A place that hasn’t been affected by the disaster yet.

VI The name of the dam that collapsed in November.
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After reading

7 How can knowledge of Brazilian geography help the reader understand the text? What could the author have done to help foreigners notice the relationship between the items in activity 6 more clearly and picture the scale of the disaster?

Professor/a, espera-se que os/as estudantes percebam que o conhecimento sobre a localização dos estados do Espírito Santo e Minas Gerais, do arquipélago de Abrolhos (na costa sul da Bahia) e da cidade de Mariana (no interior de Minas Gerais) ajuda a mapear a extensão do desastre ecológico. Para ajudar o/a leitor/a, o texto online poderia ter hyperlinks com informações sobre os locais mencionados, fotos aéreas do rio desembocando no mar e da mancha de resíduos que se formou, ou ainda um mapa indicando essas localidades. Sugere-se apontar a importância dos conhecimentos prévios na leitura e como os recursos multimodais também podem auxiliar no entendimento do texto.

8 How harmful is mining to the environment? Read this excerpt and check your answer.

Professor/a, espera-se que os/as estudantes percebam que a mineração pode causar muitos malefícios ao meio ambiente, como efeito estufa, morte da flora e da fauna, erosão, poluição das águas etc.

“Mining is an inherently invasive process that can cause damage to a landscape in an area much larger than the mining site itself. The effects of this damage can continue years after a mine has shut down, including the addition to greenhouse [gases], death of flora and fauna, and erosion of land and habitat. […]

Most modern mining techniques have high water demands for extraction, processing, and waste disposal. Wastewater from these processes can pollute water sources nearby and deplete freshwater supplies in the region surrounding the mine.”

Available at

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