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Vale to begin disposing of tailings waste from Brumadinho collapse

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Mining & Resources / Tailings Storage Facilities

Vale to begin disposing of tailings waste from Brumadinho collapse

Key points:

  • Vale have received authorisation to dispose of tailings that have already been inspected and released by the Minas Gerais Military Fire Brigade at the extraction site
  • Vale expects it will have removed and disposed of tailings from Ferro-Carvao stream up to the confluence of the Paraopeba river (area which received the highest discharge of materials) by 2023
  • In January, 2020 they announced the launch of a recovery project, Zero Milestone for the environmental recovery of the impacted area

MINING giant Vale is to begin disposing of the mine tailings from the fatal collapse of one of its dams last year, which killed at least 259 people, into the extraction site. The move is expected to speed up the removal and final disposal process.

Tailings are the waste product of ore processing; a slurry of fine uneconomic rock and chemical effluent that is stored in tailings dams.

The collapse of Dam 1 of the Córrego do Feijão mine – located near Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil – released a torrent of muddy slurry which buried the surrounding area, including the site’s administrative building and cafeteria, reaching as far as a local community. 259 people have been confirmed dead so far, and 11 people are still considered missing.

On 28 February, Vale was authorised to use the Córrego do Feijão mine for disposal. Authorisation was given by Brazil’s National Mining Agency (ANM) and formalised by the publication of an order in Brazil’s Federal Official Gazette, or DOU, the official journal of the country’s federal government.

Vale received authorisation to dispose of tailings that have already been inspected and released by the Minas Gerais Military Fire Brigade at the extraction site. Approval was given by ANM and the Minas Gerais State Department of Environment and Sustainable Development (SEMAD). Vale is to separate waste – such as metals, rubber, and wood – before disposing the tailings in the extraction site.

The measure is part of an Integrated Tailings and Waste Management Plan. Vale expects it will have removed and disposed of tailings from Ferro-Carvão stream up to the confluence of the Paraopeba river, located near the site of Dam 1, by 2023. The Ferro-Carvão stream is a tributary of the Paraopeba River and received the highest discharge of material from Dam 1.

According to Vale, disposal of the tailings into the extraction site is essential for search efforts to continue, and for the recovery of areas affected by the collapse.

Vale said: “The company reinforces its commitment to comply with environmental legislation throughout the process, in addition to periodically reporting to the relevant authorities”.

Previously, it was reported that 9.7m m3 of material flowed from Dam 1 within five minutes of the collapse. On 18 December 2019, Vale said it had removed 1.3m m3 of tailings. Additionally, the company has previously said that it had dredged 130,000 m3 of tailings from the Ferro-Carvão stream. On 13 January, it said it had removed 59,000 m3 of tailings from the first 400 m stretch of the Paraopeba after confluence with the Ferro-Carvão stream.

In January, Vale announced the launch of a recovery project, Zero Milestone, for the environmental recovery of the area impacted by the collapse of Dam 1.

Originally published by The Chemical Engineer.

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, Church of England – Tailings: 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?

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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