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The Brazilian government has been urged to step up punishments for environmental crimes after the deadliest mining disaster in decades.

The torrent of mud and iron ore tailings that engulfed the community of Brumadinho on Friday continues to inflict a toll on residents, river systems and freshwater species.

Rescue teams had by Monday recovered 60 bodies near the site, which is operated by Vale, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, but hundreds of people are still missing. Many were eating lunch or resting in a hotel when the tailings dam collapsed and swept them away in a tide of orange sludge.

It is the second such calamity to strike a Vale facility in the state of Minas Gerais in less than four years. In 2015, 19 people were killed when a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine in Mariana that the Brazilian company co-owned with the London-listed BHP Group.

The amount of slurry this time is 75% lower, at 13 million cubic metres, but now, as then, the ecological damage is spreading far beyond the immediate area and could potentially persist for many years with grave consequences for local communities, wildlife and the national economy.

Read more on the website of The Gardian

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