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Maceio Mine Collapse Raises Warning Signs

The recent collapse of a mine belonging to Brazilian petrochemical giant Braskem in the northeastern coastal city of Maceio has raised serious concerns about the impact of the company’s rock salt mining operations on the local community. The mine, which was in the process of being shut down, partially collapsed on Sunday, causing the water level in the nearby Mundau lagoon to rise unexpectedly.

According to the city’s civil defence authority, there were no immediate risks to people living in the surrounding area, as it had previously been evacuated. However, the incident has sparked memories of the long-standing troubles in Maceio, which began a year earlier when large cracks first appeared on the surface of the ground.

In 2019, the company ordered the evacuation of some areas, including parts of the Mutange neighborhood, due to concerns that the mine was at risk of collapse. Since then, residents in five neighborhoods have accepted Braskem’s payouts to relocate, with some 200,000 people affected by the company’s mining activities.

The Brazilian Senate’s website reported that the company’s mining activities had already caused significant damage to the city, with residents complaining about the settlement of their homes and the formation of large craters. In July, Braskem reached a $356 million settlement with the city to compensate for the damage caused by its mining operations.

The mine’s collapse has also raised questions about the company’s monitoring and maintenance of its operations. Prior to the collapse, Braskem had warned authorities of the imminent risk the mine would collapse, and had been sending regular updates, including possible times at which the mine could collapse.

Maceio Mine Collapse Raises Warning Signs

The incident has also highlighted the risks associated with rock salt mining, a process that involves extracting salt from deep underground deposits. Once the salt has been extracted, the cavities left behind can collapse, causing the soil above to settle. Structures built on top of such areas can topple, posing a significant threat to the safety of residents.

Braskem, one of the biggest petrochemical companies in the Americas, is owned primarily by Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras and construction giant Novonor, formerly known as Odebrecht. The company had been operating in Maceio for 40 years, extracting rock salt from deep underground deposits. However, its operations have been plagued by repeated incidents, including mine collapses, which have raised concerns about the company’s safety record and the impact of its activities on the local community.

As the city grapples with the aftermath of the mine collapse, residents are left wondering about the long-term impact of Braskem’s mining activities on their homes and livelihoods. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for stricter regulations and greater transparency in the mining industry, to ensure the safety of communities and the protection of the environment.

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