Under rain and rubble, Minas reveals nation hostage to greed and abandonment - 01/14/2022

We had arrived at Capitólio, late in the afternoon, and Waze indicated that there were still two hours to go.

After recalculating, it began to make sense that the rented ranch on the edge of the Furnas dam, found in an internet search, had turned out to be so much cheaper than the most popular places in the tourist city. The old maxim that, for miners, everything is close by, right there, also made sense. Our goal was to spend the end of the year on Capitol Hill or somewhere close by. But the stay felt like it was on the other side of the world.

In the end, it was not a bad thing to walk a little further and escape the hype of tours in the canyons, inns and overpriced restaurants. In order not to miss the trip, we parked the car next to a row of cars maneuvered on the edge of a cliff of rocky rocks to have lunch.

From up there it was possible to see the boats circling to the sound of music country girl. There was a little bit of everything but quiet — just what we needed to replenish the batteries of a full year.

“Whoever bought land here a few years ago now owns a mine,” said my father, as he watched the line to visit one of the many viewpoints on a farm.

a mine. The reference to the name that baptizes the state seemed ironic. Minas Gerais.

A few days later, back at home, we saw with amazement the displacement of a rock in Capitol towards the boats that sailed on the dam, similar to the ones we would have wanted to rent if our plan had worked out. Ten people died in the tragedy that could have been avoided if the authorities had decided that the money flowing from that mine was at least worth the safety of tourists.

I cannot say how much the crowd that occupies the city impacts the natural movement of those slopes, but it is a fact that the natural movement of the slopes, on rainy days, does not hold so many people.

As a geologist explained to a TV program, that was a predictable tragedy: torrential rains increase the hydrostatic pressure on the rock mass, which causes the collapse of blocks. It’s absurd to have someone right below, as if the fissures weren’t alert enough.

The money mine also has its curses. At the beginning of last year, two tourists were found dead in the city, after a head of water, one of the effects of the rain, hit the Cascatinha waterfall.

By tragic irony, it was precisely the millenary action of the rains, which gnawed the gold veins from the rocks and deposited them in rivers, in the bottom of valleys and in the depressions of mountains, that led the first explorers to identify the traces of alluvial gold in quantities visible beyond the Serra da Mantiqueira. It was the beginning of the history of the occupation of Minas Gerais.

Throughout the 18th century, Brazilian production of the metal already exceeded the total volume of gold that Spain extracted from its colonies in the previous two centuries. That’s what Eduardo Galeano says in the book “As Veias Abertas da América Latina”, quoted here in a recent column.

There, as a tourist, it was difficult not to connect the mining activity of the past and present with the money mines of tourist tours.

The problem is that prosperity is not always what you see at the end of cycles of economic exploitation.

In the Ouro Preto region, the greatest symbol of the metal fever — and where Bauxite is the name of a neighborhood — Galeano says that “only the explosion of talent remains as a reminder of the vertigo of gold, not to mention the excavation holes and the small towns abandoned”.

This hole has become even more wide open since Thursday (13), when a ravine collapsed with the effect of the rains and mercilessly destroyed a 19th century mansion, the first neocolonial building in the city, dating from 1800. The property that collapsed It had a padded lining with hardwood.

Nature took care of the negligence — although isolated due to the risks of collapsing, the buildings could have been saved by screens and retaining walls. They were in danger. The danger remained.

Nobody there was hurt. Not this time.

The railroad waters, now called a street, continue to cause interdictions in Ouro Preto, a city also surrounded by dams, like neighboring Mariana.

In the book, published in 1971, Galeano predicted that iron would leave nothing in the region other than what it left gold. And he remembered a sentence by the French mineralogist Henri Gorceix, according to whom “Minas Gerais had a heart of gold in an iron chest”.

In the heart of Brazil, this iron chest, a pot up to now of dirty water from dams, has in the wake of Mariana e Brumadinho the most disastrous actualization of national predatory instincts. There are those who cynically call the murder caused by the country’s large mining companies an accident. This murder has attested to collusion with political groups that take turns in power in the state.

The money that builds and destroys beautiful things also kills. How to avoid the next tragedies if not even the edifice of History was left standing?

To paraphrase the Minas Gerais poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, this is why we are a sad, proud nation. Of iron.

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