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Brumadinho / Inhotim - Immersion tourism - Regeneration of activities and degraded areas

  • Published on February 14, 2022

On the eve of completing one year since the tragedy in Brumadinho (MG), environmental devastation continues to draw attention in the area that runs from the Córrego do Feijão Mine to the Paraopeba River. The mud avalanche released after the Vale dam collapsed on January 25, 2019, caused damage that will not be repaired in the short term. The dam stores approximately 12 million cubic meters of tailings. A good part of this volume that leaked first reached the Ribeirão Ferro-Carvão and, from there, drained into the Paraopeba River. The force of the mud destroyed communities, and since then, 259 bodies have been found, but 11 people remain missing.


Brumadinho, 65 km from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, is one of the municipalities located in the conservation unit of the Serra do Rola-Moça State Park. The tailings dam, classified as "low risk" and "high damage potential," was controlled by Vale S.A. and was located on the Ferro-Carvão stream, in the Córrego do Feijão region. The rupture of the dam released about 12 million cubic meters of tailings, the mud descended Serra dos Dois Irmãos, crossing the road that connects Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho. The mud invaded the Ferro-Carvão stream and traveled 9 km until reaching the Paraopeba River, an important tributary of the São Francisco River. In addition to the devastation of the rivers, 112 hectares of natural Atlantic Forest were deforested by the mud. The tragedy killed hundreds of people, including dead and missing, and decimated a large part of the region's fauna and flora. Water contamination reached over 120 km in length, leaving it unfit for consumption in at least 20 municipalities in Minas Gerais. The total destruction of freshwater ecosystems, marine life, and riparian forest has eliminated irreplaceable natural resources for riverine life, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism.


Inhotim, the largest open-air museum globally and the engine of tourism in Brumadinho, was willing to reforest the areas impacted by the tragedy. Inhotim is located on 133 hectares of land, whose biodiversity had been degraded by mining and farms, but was restored in the 1980s. Today, it has about 5,000 plants in a botanical garden that harmonizes with galleries and works of art. Contemporary art by great artists such as Hélio Oiticica. Bernardo de Paz Mello's property also includes a 250-hectare Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN), "which is the great seed matrix for the work carried out in the laboratory," says Sigefredo. This RPPN is composed of hundreds of plants native to the transition zone of the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes.


From 2012 to December 2017, Inhotim developed a project to sequester carbon from the atmosphere from the recovery of areas impacted by mining and community development. The research was financed by the National Fund on Climate Change, linked to the Ministry of the Environment. The studies in the RPPN gave rise to a seed bank with potential for the recovery of other degraded areas. Monkfish, pau-de-óleo (or copaíba), guapuruvu, macaúba and quaresmeira are some of the native species of the region impacted by the Vale tragedy and which are part of the Inhotim collection.


The first step is to assess the terrain, whose configuration has changed due to the mudflow and the use of machines in the search for missing persons, explains Sigefredo. “We do not know the current composition of the soil, but some of the most well-known methodologies can be used in reforestation, such as tissue culture, nucleation, no-till, or topsoil.” In one of the areas recover in the Inhotim research, with support from the Climate Fund, it took just over two years of planting for pioneer species to reach 5 meters in height. With this, conditions were created to reestablish a microclimate that allowed the emergence of other species with slower growth or greater nutritional demand.

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