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Brazil shuts 47 mining dams deemed unsafe

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Mining & Resources / Tailings Storage Facilities

Brazil shuts 47 mining dams deemed unsafe

Key points:

  • Brazil has ordered the immediate closure of 47 tailings dams – more than half belong to Vale
  • Regulations released in August required Vale to decharacterize or modify some small internal dikes at nine dams similar to the one that failed in January 2019
  • Learn more about the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative in this free webinar

 

Brazil has ordered the immediate closure of 47 mining dams that failed to certify their stability, with more than half of them belonging to Vale (NYSE: VALE), whose Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine’s tailings suffered a catastrophic failure in January last year, killing at least 270 people.

The deadly incident, the second dam collapse in a Vale mine in less than four years, led to serious production stoppages, pledges by the company to reconstruct or decommission many of its other waste storage facilities and the firing of a number of executives.

Regulations released in August required Vale, which lost its spot as the world’s top iron producer to Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) earlier this year, to “decharacterize” or modify some small internal dikes at nine dams similar to the one that burst in January 2019.

AT LEAST 25 OF THEM BELONG TO VALE, WHOSE CÓRREGO DO FEIJÃO IRON ORE MINE’S TAILINGS SUFFERED A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE LAST YEAR, KILLING 270 PEOPLE

The new directives also forced the decharacterization of some drained stack structures owned by Vale, which are a different kind of commonly used tailings dam.

The decharacterization process is part of the last phase of the decommissioning of a dam. It refers to the treatment of a structure so that it does not present dam characteristics and can be reincorporated to the environment.

By October, 54 Brazilian dams had either not certified their stability or failed to file the required paperwork altogether. Many of those structures are the ones closed down today, but the list also includes others operated by Vale or its affiliates. That brings the company’s number up to at least 25 inactive dams.

Earlier this week, the iron ore giant said in a file to the Brazilian securities exchange commission (CVM) that three of its dams were at higher risk of collapsing.

Dams in Brazil are labelled at risk levels, ranging from 1 to 3, in which level 3 indicates a structure is likely to collapse.

Vale said the dams with risk levels raised from 1 to 2 included the B3/B4 dam at its Mar Azul mine, the Doutor dam at its Timbopeba mine, as well as its Sul Inferior dam at its Gongo Soco mine. The dams’ risk levels increased during the time period of September 2019 to March 2020, Vale said.

The news gave Australian iron ore producers a much-needed boost. BHP’s (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) shares jumped as much as 5% on Friday, while rival Rio Tinto rose 4.3% to its highest in nearly a month. Shares in Fortescue Metals, the world’s fourth-largest iron ore miner, climbed by 8.6%, but later lost some of the gains to close 5.7% higher.

 

Originally published by Mining.com


What is the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative?

Just days after the Brumadinho dam collapse, a group of investors co-led by the Church of England (CoE) Pensions Board and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) announced the Investor Mining and Tailings Initiative, calling on 727 extractive mining companies to disclose information on their tailings facilities to form a global independent database.On the one year anniversary, the group launched the first public database on tailings storage facilities (TSF). Prior to that, there had been no central database detailing the location and quantity of tailings, and as a result, no clear indication on the number of tailings around the world.

 

What did this mean for the mining companies?

This presented mining companies with a massive challenge of assembling data-sets that were often large, complex and stored in several locations, or even lost with corporate knowledge loss. One company estimated that it took one person (per site), six weeks to collect and prepare the data.

How can companies prepare for the next round of reports?

Launching the public database was the first step in providing transparency. The CoE and UNEP remain highly motivated to deliver change in the safe management of tailings facilities across the world, and as such will be making more calls for disclosures, and for the reports to be updated regularly.

 

Check out Decipher’s free webinar, The Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative: What’s Next?

Hear from one of the driving forces behind the database and learn about:

  • The Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative (insights, key findings, what’s coming, and how to prepare for the next round of questions)
  • The upcoming global tailings standards
  • Best practices and recommendations
  • Available reporting and monitoring tools

Watch this FREE webinar

Tailings Storage Facilities - TSF - Mining - Decipher - DecipherGreen - Tailings management - tailings dam monitoring - tailings storage facility software - environmental obligations software


FAQ:

What is the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative?

Following the recent tailings dam failures, The Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative was established by a group of institutional investors active in the extractive industries representing more than $13.1 trillion in assets under management. Governed through a Steering Committee chaired by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds, the group has called upon 727 extractive mining companies to disclose information in relation to their tailings storage facilities to form an online database.

How many companies have disclosed information about their TSFs?

As of the 20th of December 2019, 46 per cent of companies contacted responded to the request. 40 of the top 50 mining companies have made disclosures which has resulted in information about thousands of individual tailings dams being made public on company websites. All 23 of 23 publicly owned companies that are members of the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) responded and fully disclosed information about their TSFs.

How many tailings dams have had stability issues?

Company disclosures to investors have revealed that 10% (166 out of 1,635) of the tailings dams reported to have had stability issues in their history.

What tailings reporting and monitoring tools are available?

Tailings Storage Facilities - TSF - Mining - Decipher - DecipherGreen - Tailings management - tailings dam monitoring - tailings storage facility software - environmental obligations software - Church of England Tailings reports

Using Decipher, you can start to organise and store your tailings storage facility data in the one place, making it easier to prepare for the next round of Church of England reports:
– Easily visualise all of your sites and simply click on the dams to see all of the relevant data and reports
– Reduce confusion, human error, and inefficiencies in reporting by providing internal stakeholders with a central repository of data on your tailings facilities
– Access key data and information from multiple departments to take a holistic approach to your tailings reporting and monitoring
– Reduce the time spent and associated costs preparing reports by creating templates which extract relevant information in a particular format, such as the Church of England report
– Decipher is designed to be securely accessed by industry, regulators, designers and operators involved in the management of TSFs. Easily setup security access levels to ensure stakeholders only see information that is relevant to them, and apply business rules, approval layers and track changes to ensure data is correct
– A Single Sign-On (SSO) integration also ensures that users are managed more easily


Request a demo of Decipher’s TSF Monitoring & Reporting tool


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