"Mud Caucus" In Brazilian Congress Stall Bills To Improve Security In Dams

Lawmakers received campaign money from mining companies, but deny they defend the industry's interests

Reynaldo Turollo Jr. Marina Estarque
Brasília and São Paulo

A small group of Brazilian house representatives, which received campaign donations from mining companies, have worked actively at legislation regarding mining activities in the countries. They have proposed changes in laws that resulted in less inspection, they occupy vital positions in House commissions and they exert a massive influence in House proceedings that concern the mining industry.

The biggest name in the group, that has been nicknamed "Mud Caucus" due to the Brumadinho dam collapse, is Leonardo Quintão (MDB-MG). Quintão received R$ 2.1 million (US$ 570,000) in donations from the mining industry in 2014, almost half of the amount he raised for his campaign.

He wasn't reelected in 2018, but he is now an aide in the Bolsonaro administration.
But other nine Congress members similarly active in mining matters kept their seats, like Paulo Abi-Ackel and Domingos Sávio (PSDB-MG); José Priante (MDB) and Joaquim Passarinho (PSD-PA) and Evair Vieira de Melo (PP-ES) e Sergio Vidigal (PDT-ES).

In 2017, when the House approved the creation of a National Agency of Mining (ANM), it also eliminated a fee that would allow for physical inspections of security conditions at mines and dams.

Quintão was the representative responsible for barring the fee; he argued that a federal charge would render an already existing state fee unfeasible.

Mining activities have been a hot topic at the House since 2014 when it created a commission to discuss changes in the mining code. During that year, from 52 commission members, 23 were reelected with mining companies' donations. That was the last election that allowed business to donate to political campaigns.

With the Mariana dam collapse of 2015, the House commission lost momentum, and the lawmakers' relationships with the mining industry are now closely watched.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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