Vale reopens iron port for at least 60 days

Vale reopens iron port for at least 60 days

The Port of Tubarão in Espírito Santo. (Image courtesy of Vale SA)

Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE), the world’s largest producer of iron ore, is resuming operations at its Port of Tubarão, after an appeals court overturned Monday last week’s order to shut down the terminal over alleged environmental breaches.

The company has now at least 60 days to come up with a plan to address and fix pollution problems tied to the port’s operations, which was what triggered the recent court-ordered halt, local paper Folha de S.Paulo reports (in Portuguese).

Such ruling couldn’t have come at a worst possible time in Vale’s history, as the miner is already struggling with historically low iron ore prices.

The raw material is trading these days at less than a quarter of its 2011 peak, and last month retreated a new low of $38.30 a ton in daily prices dating to 2009. Ore with 62% content delivered to the Chinese port of Qingdao was at $41.08 a ton on Tuesday, according to Metal Bulletin index.

Vale is also facing increasing pressure over the company’s environmental record, which has been severely tainted after a dam burst at a Brazilian mine, run by its Samarco joint venture in October.

Tubarão accounts for one third of Vale’s more than 300 million tons of annual iron ore and iron ore pellet exports.

The port also handles coal imports and steel exports for the Brazilian unit of ArcelorMittal SA , the world's largest steelmaker.