This article presents a description of the largest environmental disaster in Brazil to date, the rupture of the ore tailings dam which occurred in the municipality of Mariana, Brazil. This event of environmentally, economically and socially catastrophic proportions was caused by a tsunami of mud from tailings resulting from ore exploitation. This article preliminarily describes the magnitude of the event focusing on regulatory failures that can yield lessons in order for future similar events to be avoided. The ultimate goal of this article is to reflect on the low capacity for evaluation and management of catastrophic risks, not only in Brazil, but throughout the world. To this end, this article will discuss how disaster law theory can provide a conceptual tool used to identify the regulatory and preventative deficits which compound the impact of serious environmental risks. This article then discusses suitable ways to utilize disaster law theory in the preparation of future disaster risk reduction policies.

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