Hundreds of people were evacuated on Friday from two different areas in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais amid fears of further dam breaches following a deadly mining accident two weeks ago.
Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, evacuated some 500 people as a “preventive measure” from a tailings dam area of the Gongo Soco mine, near the city of Barão de Cocais.
The move was prompted by a decision from Brazil’s mining agency after consultancy firm Walm denied the issuance of a stability condition report for the dam, the company said in a statement on Friday. The mine has not been in production since 2016.
Separately, ArcelorMittal said it was evacuating a community of 200 people situated downstream from its from a dormant tailings dam at its Serra Azul iron ore mine as a “precautionary measure” following an independent assessment.
“This is a decision we could see other operators in Brazil taking as they seek to minimise risks given the significant repercussions from the failure of any tailings dams close to communities,” said Edward Sterck, analyst at BMO Capital Markets.
Mining dams are coming under increasing scrutiny in Brazil following the collapse at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho on January 26, which killed at least 157 people. Over 180 people are still missing and feared dead in what has become one of Latin America’s worst ever mining disasters.
This was the second accident involving tailings dams in less than four years. In November 2015, 19 people were killed when dams holding waste material at the Samarco iron ore mine — owned by Vale and Anglo-Australian miner BHP — burst, spewing millions of tonnes of mud around the town of Mariana, also in Minas Gerais.
In 2018, a Brazilian congressional commission concluded that more than 3,500 dams are regarded as being “at risk”, and 723 of those present a high risk of potential damage.
“At the very least, these preventive moves reflect increasingly restrictive environmental and safety measures taken by Brazilian authorities in response to the two recent Vale disasters,” investment bank Jefferies said in a note.
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