BRUMADINHO, Brazil – Nothing is left, just mud. The Nova Estancia inn has gone from lodging such internationally famous artists as Caetano Veloso, to become a symbol of the mining catastrophe that left 60 dead and 292 missing in this town in southeastern Brazil.
This inn was the best known and most elegant of the region.
Its geographic location made it unique, with captivating views of the Atlantic Forest and just a few kilometers (miles) from Inhotim, considered the largest open-air museum of contemporary art in Latin America and an important tourist attraction.
“It’s in the middle of nature so it’s very quiet,” the inn’s Web site states. Today’s reality is radically different. It is heartbreaking, almost apocalyptic.
The pictures of swimming pools, lakes, beautiful green areas and luxury rooms have given way to total destruction. Nova Estancia has completely disappeared from the map, without a trace left behind.
The flood of water and mine residues caused by last Friday’s rupture of a tailings dam at a mine owned by iron-ore giant Vale has completely buried all the installations of the inn.
The site can now be reached only by circling the entire region by car and then walking part of the way through a bog, so not much progress has been made with the rescue and recovery work, EFE observed.
Firefighter Marcelo Augusto arrived this Sunday as reinforcement and is attentively exploring the valley of mud – previously a forest – which included the place where the inn had been, in search of survivors or more victims.
Several bodies were recovered and he told EFE “there are more” buried in the mudslide.
It is estimated that 35 people were at the inn when the tailings dam collapsed, including the owner, Marcio Mascarenhas, who has been missing since then. His wife and son, plus several employees, are also on the “not contacted” list.
Rooms in this now non-existent inn had been occupied by world-famous personalities like singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso, who lamented this disaster on social media and slammed the intense mining in the region.
For the artist, who visited Brumadinho in 2016 to sing at the Meca Festival, Nova Estancia was an oasis of “elegance” in the midst of an area in Minas Gerais state “contaminated by an air of instability and the ugliness that surrounded it.”
“Sometimes today I have cried uncontrollably, thinking of the people I met there and of the many I didn’t meet,” he posted on his Instagram account.
The surroundings were “depressing,” however, since “vehicles from the mine often belched black smoke and splashed filth and mud on the unpaved highways,” the artist said.
That intense mining activity has stopped completely. The mines are closed down, deserted, while Brumadinho in Minas Gerais state is recovering from its worst tragedy.
Just over three years before Friday’s disaster in Brumadinho, a similar tailings dam collapse at a mine jointly owned by Vale and Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP in Mariana, a municipality about 120km (75mi) away, killed 19 people and caused what was until then Brazil’s worst environmental catastrophe.
Every one of the more than 400 tailings dams in Minas Gerais are at “some risk of rupture,” according to Julio Cesar Grilo, regional director of the Brazilian Environmental Institute.