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Vale launches environmental recovery project, Zero Milestone

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Mining & Resources / Tailings Storage Facilities

Vale launches environmental recovery project, Zero Milestone

Key points:

  • Vale launched the pilot project for environmental recovery of an area affected by the breach of dam 1 in Brumadinho (Minas Gerais)
  • The program aims to re-establish the original conditions of Ferro-Carvao stream, revegetate the riparian forest with native plants, and recover the Paraopeba river

Vale launches the pilot project for environmental recovery of an area affected by the breach of dam 1 (B1) at Córrego do Feijão mine, in Brumadinho (Minas Gerais). Known as Zero Milestone, the program aims to re-establish the original conditions of Ferro-Carvão stream, revegetate the riparian forest with native plants, and recover Paraopeba river. The project scope includes installation of the sheet pile wall next to the new bridge at Alberto Flores avenue; it goes 400 meters downstream the Ferro-Carvão stream and two kilometers after the confluence with Paraopeba river.

Zero Milestone is a pilot project to be evaluated, adjusted and, once proven effective, can be replicated to other impacted areas on a case-by-case basis. So far, the program has demonstrated efficiency considering the rainfall in the region. The pilot project is expected to be completed by February this year. Investments in the program are part of the funds for emergency containment works in Brumadinho, which should amount R$1.8 billion by 2023.

The first challenge of the project was to re-create the layout of the stream prior to the breach. Vale removed 130,000 m³ of tailings from this stretch and, based on topographic surveys and searches to Google Earth history, the original course of the stream was marked. Using the Green Wall technology – a patented system for recovery of watercourses and riparian forests -, Vale re-created the stream channel with rocks at the bottom and walls of biomantle (revegetation). After re-creation of the channel, the surrounding area – the valley of Ferro-Carvão stream – was backfilled and leveled, recovering its original topography.

Revegetation

The revegetation process of the area defined in the Zero Milestone project will be carried out in three phases. The first phase began after re-creation of the channel of Ferro-Carvão stream. Part of the surface has already been covered by a type of fertile topsoil, and selected groundcover species were hydroseeded (water-aided sowing technique) in the soil. Then, the company applied natural biomantles made of coconut fiber above the sown layer to protect the seeds from the harmful action of birds or rainwater, ensuring an ideal environment for germination and plant formation.

In the second phase, medium-sized vegetation will be planted to provide favorable conditions for the third and last phase, which is planting native species of the region. The native species to be used are being defined as well as their origin. Studies are also being done to quantify the number and spacing of seedlings, based on the original composition of the region.

Vale states that a forest assessment of the area was carried out to register, catalog and tag each individual (plant) and that, together with the State Institute of Forests (IEF, Instituto Estadual de Florestas), also performed a careful evaluation of the affected species. Species already withered and that would impact safety have been excluded. There are still attempts to recover trees that are at risk of withering away. In such cases, the plants are being cared for and monitored. It is worth noting that the complete revegetation process takes time and is directly affected by external factors, such as climate and the natural cycle of growth and development of plants and the biome itself.

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Revegetation process of the Zero Milestone area will be carried out in three phases

Responsible management, safety, health and environment

For this action, Vale has assigned a multidisciplinary team of about 60 people at the peak of the activities. The company has also been dedicated to deploying a safety, health, and environmental management system throughout the Zero Milestone project. In addition, the company has applied a lean construction model aiming to reduce the impacts during and after construction works, allowing a healthy development of the species used for environmental recovery.

Tailings dredging activities on the first two kilometers of Paraopeba river after the confluence with Ferro-Carvão stream complement the actions of the Zero Milestone project. Vale has already removed 59,000 m³ of tailings from the first 400 meters of the stretch. The material removed during dredging is stored and dehydrated in large geotextile bags. The water drained from these bags is pumped into a treatment plant and returns clean to Paraopeba river, in compliance with the standards set out by the National Council for the Environment (Conama, Conselho Nacional de Meio Ambiente).

All actions are monitored by an independent technical audit assigned by the Prosecution Office of Minas Gerais and systematically reported to the competent authorities.

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Stream channel was re-created with rocks at the bottom and walls of biomantle (revegetation)
Originally published by Vale.

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.

Decipher is hosting a 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

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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?

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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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