Brazilian miners set to miss deadline for tailings dam removal

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Vale and other Brazilian mining companies are expected to miss a legal deadline in the state of Minas Gerais for the removal of all tailings dams built using a method linked to past collapses, and the industry is seeking to change it.

The February 25 deadline has been seen as unrealistic by the mining industry since it was first set in early 2019, a month after a tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho killed 270 people.

The Minas Gerais law, which imposes the removal of all dams built using the upstream method, in which the wall of the structure is formed from dried mining waste. The upstream design has been used at Brumadinho as well as the Samarco Dam which collapsed in the town of Mariana in 2015.

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Those who break the law could have their operating license suspended.

Only 18 of the 48 upstream dams that existed in Minais Gerais in 2019 will be decommissioned by the deadline, according to a survey by the Federation of Industries of the State of Minas Gerais (Fiemg). Six more in the state are expected to be retired by the end of the year.

Fiemg decided to go to court to avoid possible penalties related to the deadline and to find ways to make it more flexible depending on the scope of the work involved.

He filed a lawsuit in court last week challenging the constitutionality of the state law and plans to legally request this week that the judiciary mediate to ensure the dismantling is done according to the needs of each project. .

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“We don’t want it to be slower, we have to do what is safest. A rushed dismantling would also be a risk,” Flavio Roscoe, chairman of Fiemg, told Reuters, stressing that the dismantling process and the time frame should take into account individual structures and security.

A federal law published in September 2020 also sets a February 25 date for the removal of dams upstream, but provides that the deadline can be extended by the entity that regulates and oversees the mining activity.

Vale, owner of the most dams related to iron ore production in the state, has removed four upstream dams in Minas Gerais since 2019 and three more of the 30 it has in Pará state. according to a recent company report.

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The company this week began decommissioning the first of five such structures slated for decommissioning later this year in Minas Gerais, which produces much of Brazil’s iron ore and large quantities of other key metals.

Vale, in a comment to Reuters, reiterated its commitment to dismantling upstream dams in the South American nation and preventing further disasters.

There are other upstream dams in the state owned by companies including CSN, Gerdau and ArcelorMittal, according to records from regulator ANM and the government of Minas Gerais.

ANM, CSN, Gerdau and ArcelorMittal did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Carolina Pulice Editing by Paul Simao)

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