Two dams collapsed in the Mariana region of the Minas Gerais State in Brazil on Thursday, November 5th, 2015. Large tracts of once-inhabited land near the former dams are now covered under meters of mercury-laced, toxic mud. The tragedy has left 250,000 inhabitants without drinking water. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said that this tragedy is comparable to the 2010 BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The 500 people living in the vicinity of the dams were immediately forced to evacuate their residences. The volume of muddy water displaced by the collapse is roughly equivalent to 25,000 Olympic 50-meter swimming pools.
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The Bitcoin community has responded. A donation campaign, #BitcoinPorMariana, has circulated Facebook, Reddit and other social media. Funds raised will help cover the costs of delivering bottled water. Brazilian company Água Canção Nova will provide the purified water — only charging production costs. FoxBit, a Brazilian Bitcoin exchange, and organizer of the relief fund, says it costs roughly $2,000 to fill and send a truck with 25,000 liters of drinking water. FlowBTC, CoinBR, NegocieCoins and BitcoinToYou have pledged $2,500. The campaign will last until November 30, 2015.
At press time, the BitcoinPorMariana public address has received 104 donations, totaling 3,000 mBTC. At current market rates, this amount is worth approximately $1,004 USD.
Bitcoin has become a popular donation method for disaster relief. In November 2013, now-defunct Bitcoin exchange BitMe organized a fund to help typhoon victims in the Philippines. Recently, ChangeTip organized a campaign that successfully donated 29 Bitcoin to the victims of the Nepalese avalanches. BitGive is the first registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit charity whose sole focus is Bitcoin-powered charitable works. The foundation focuses primarily on the areas of public health and the environment. Many Bitcoin businesses and individuals have made sizable donations to BitGive’s various causes.
There are still misconceptions about Bitcoin that damage its reputation as means for donating funds. Bitcoin has long been criticized as a way to finance nefarious activities. Recently, CNBC aired a segment citing Bitcoin as a means of terrorist financing. In contrast with these claims, donation campaigns utilize the special properties of Bitcoin for helping others. Bitcoin, with its transparent blockchain, deters corruption. If chosen, it keeps donations out of the hands of the state and ensures economic efficiency. Bitcoin also allows for easy micropayments. These payments can be sent to remote parts of the world cheaply.
If you are interested in making a Bitcoin donation to help fund the relief effort, the official donation address can be found here.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Bitcoin.com forum user schiavonxv