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March 2019 comment: Make your knowledge count

The scale of the tragedy Vale Mining’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho, Brazil is shocking. More shocking is that this incident is not the first tailings dam collapse to have claimed so many lives. 

And many industry specialists believe that without decisive action, the events at Brumadinho will not be the last of their kind either.

claire clipped nov18 in article

claire clipped nov18 in article

Claire Smith is editor of Ground Engineering

Events in Brazil have led to the arrest of 15 people so far as part of the criminal investigation. Four of those arrested are engineers from German engineering consultancy Tüd Süv, which carried out an inspection of the collapsed dam in September.

Tüd Süv raised concerns about the dam last year and Vale claims to have acted on these. However, questions are now being asked about whether the consultancy went far enough in its investigations or recommendations.

The implications of this incident extend well beyond dam safety and into professional accountability, which is something everyone should be concerned about. Yet as an industry we are poor at sharing details of failures to ensure lessons are learned, which leads me to wonder how many incidents are brushed under the carpet and never fully revealed? And how many near misses, that we could learn from, are hushed up?

As qualified engineers we should be able to say when we feel that something is not right, but how many are more concerned about what the client will think and how it will impact on securing the next job?

Our news coverage is not all negative though – on the same page in the printed issue of GE as the report on the Brumadinho dam collapse we have a story on the success of remote monitoring in halting trains following a landslide in south east London in February.

If we can successfully combine our knowledge with emerging technology and professional integrity, we must be on the right path to preventing further tragedies. If you feel unable to combine all three, then it is essential to ask why not and make a change so you can.

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