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5 Minutes: The aftermath of Brazil’s worst environmental crime

5 Minutes is the first chapter of an ongoing investigative documentary project that denounces the environmental injustices carried out by mining corporations around the world. This work focuses on the aftermath of the biggest ecological disaster in Brazil’s history: the Samarco mine tailing breach.

In November 2015, the ‘Fundão’ tailings dam, run by the mining companies Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton, collapsed in the state of Minas Gerais. The rupturing of the dam triggered a relentless wave of sludge that engulfed everything standing in its way. The rust-red plume of mud containing toxic mining waste left a path of destruction from the village of Bento Rodrigues down the Doce River all the way to the coast, decimating an area the size of Portugal.

Careless practices of growing the economy create a culture that places little to no importance on the well-being of the citizens, to the point that preventable catastrophic disasters take place. Almost 8 years have passed since the Samarco mine tailings dam collapsed and no individual or corporation was held responsible, the long-term damages to the environment have not yet been seriously addressed and hundreds of thousands of victims are still waiting for reparations whilst living in temporary housing. This was not the first avoidable environmental crime directly caused by humans and will not be the last. Legacies of colonial hegemony go beyond the violent mineral extraction, amplifying existing environmental injustices.

Adopting an experimental narrative, this work intends to materialise the socio-environmental impacts caused by the mining activity which are often imperceptible to the human eye. 5 Minutes is an attempt to structure evidence via a collaborative practice with the people impacted, people who had no more than 5 minutes to legally address the crimes committed by the mining industry against their lives and their lands.