Brazilian town devastated by dam burst wants mine reopened

martes 15 de marzo de 2016 08:00 GYT

By Marta Nogueira

MARIANA, Brazil, March 15 (Reuters) - In November, Marcos de Freitas lost his home and everything he owned when a dam burst at a nearby mine released a flow of mud that buried his village.

Now, sitting in a house paid for by the company responsible, he wants the mine to reopen.

"I have nothing to complain about," said the heavy set 55-year-old retired miner who fled his house, one of the oldest in the destroyed village of Bento Rodrigues, when the mud was up to his ankles.

"Samarco has to start producing again in order to create jobs," he said. Samarco, which is jointly owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton, is the mine operator.

The flood of mining waste, known as tailings, killed 19 people, left about 800 homeless and polluted a major river, in what the government called Brazil's worst-ever environmental disaster. But Freitas' view is widely held in Mariana, just 25 km (16 miles) from the mine.

The historic town of 60,000, built on gold mining during the Portuguese colonial era, relies on the red iron ore in the surrounding hills for nearly 90 percent of its revenue.

Since the mine closed four months ago, the line at the unemployment agency has lengthened steadily as those looking for jobs surged from 300 to 1,900. It could grow longer still if Samarco starts to lay off its 3,000 direct employees.

On Saturday, about a thousand people marched through the town center's cobbled streets demanding the pit reopen. "Justice yes, unemployment no!" they shouted.   Continuación...