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Episodes 2020; 43(4): 981-990

Published online December 1, 2020


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Applying geoethics to the context of mining ferruginous geosystems: case studies from the tailing dam breaks in Fundão and Córrego do Feijão, Minas Gerais - Brazil

by Úrsula de Azevedo Ruchkys1*, Paulo de Tarso Amorim Castro2, Sónia Maria Carvalho Ribeiro1, and Luciano José Alvarenga2

1 Federal University of Minas Gerais - Institute of Geosciences, Av. Pres. Antônio Carlos, 6627 - Pampulha, Belo Horizonte - MG, 31270-901 – Brazil
2 Federal University of Ouro Preto - Department of Geology, Campos Morro Do Cruzeiro, s/n - Bauxita, Ouro Preto - MG, 35400-000 – Brazil

Correspondence to:*E-mail: tularuchkys@yahoo.com.br

Received: April 11, 2019; Revised: April 16, 2020; Accepted: April 16, 2020

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Geoethics is an emerging concept particularly suited to planning and managing the use of geo-resources (including water and soil). The main objective of this paper is to explore geoethics to contextualize the problems associated with mining activities in ferruginous geosystems, using as examples the ruptures of the Fundão and the Córrego do Feijão dams, both located in the Quadrilátero Ferrífero (QF), in the state of Minas Gerais - Brazil. Mining industry in the region has been developing for centuries being a guiding thread of the identity and memory of the local communities. By claiming to bring economic returns to the area, mining has been transforming the environmental balance and the physiognomy of landscapes. By examining the context of the rupture of two dam breaks (human and environmental losses), our work challenges the prevailing view that mining, as practiced in the QF, only brings development and aggregates value to the population. Instead, our work highlights that the performance of mining sector as a whole, and the mining companies in particular, requires a more responsible and ethical action towards society. We therefore call for the need to include geoethical approaches in mainstream landscape management strategies in ferruginous geosystems in Brazil.