Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho

An alarm warning of an imminent mining dam rupture was issued on Sunday morning near Brumadinho, the same Brazilian community where the collapse of a dam at Vale’s  (NYSE:VALE) Córrego do Feijão mining complex on Friday killed at least 58, while more than 400 are still missing.

The alert of “dangerously high water levels” at another dam that is part of the same mining complex in south-east Brazil, went off at 5:30am on Sunday, Rio de Janeiro-based mining giant Vale twitted:

Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho complex

 

Local media reported that a loudspeaker alarm announced an evacuation of the area affected by Friday’s dam collapse, which has a population of 39,000 people. “Find the highest point in the city,” the warning said. Late on Sunday, authorities called off the alarm and evacuation of residents in the town of Brumadinho.

Friday’s accident panicked locals who still have vivid memories of the deadly dam failure at Samarco, BHP and Vale’s joint venture, which killed 19 people in 2015 and became the country’s worst ever environmental disaster.

Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho complex

Before and after. (Courtesy of Estado en Minas | Twitter.)

"No lessons were learned from the Mariana tragedy," Greenpeace Brazil campaign coordinator Nilo D'Avila told JovenPam. "It's the same company and the same kind of accident."

Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said the dam at the Feijão mine had a capacity of 12 million cubic metres, far less than the 50 million cubic metres Samarco's one had in 2015. He added the facility was being decommissioned and that equipment had shown the dam was stable on Jan. 10.

Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho complex

A loudspeaker warning announced Sunday morning an evacuation of the area in Brumadinho, which has a population of 39,000 people. (Image courtesy of R7 Noticias | Twitter.)

While the Samarco disaster dumped about five times more mining waste, Feijão's dam break has already killed more people, as the torrent of sludge hit Vale's local offices, including a crowded cafeteria, and tore through a populated area downhill.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the devastated zone on Saturday, later tweeting that it was “difficult to not be emotional before this scene”. He said all efforts were being made to care for survivors and “determine the facts, to demand justice and prevent new tragedies.”

The same day, the country’s National Mining Agency on Saturday ordered Vale to suspend operations at the mine and Minas Gerais state prosecutors entered a motion to freeze 5 billion reais ($1.3 billion) in the company's accounts for handling damages. It's expected that more funds will be frozen in days to come.

Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho complex

Media were urged not to use drones to avoid collisions with rescue helicopters. (Photo: ABC News via @MidiaNINJA.)

The military said it deployed 1,000 soldiers, including sniffer dogs, to the disaster zone.

The Feijão mine is part of Vale's southern system operations, which is made up of three mines and two ports and accounts for about a quarter of the company's iron ore output.