Abstract This paper proposes the use of a hybrid method that combines Biased Random Key Genetic Algorithm (BRKGA) with a local search heuristic to separate Brazilian tailing dam data into groups. The goal was identifying dams similar to Fundão and B1 failed dams. The groups were created by solving the clustering problem by BRKGA. The clustering problem consists in separating a set of objects into groups such that members of each group are similar to each other. The data was composed by 427 dams, with the actual 425 dams of Brazilian Register of Tailing Dams and the two Brazilian failed dams from the last years. Computational experiments considering real data available are presented to demonstrate the efficacy of the proposed method producing feasible solutions. Thus, it is expected that the good results can be applied in the identification of tailings dams with risk potentials, assisting in the identification of these dams.