Moody’s cuts Vale’s credit rating to junk

Arial view of the mudslide triggered by the dam burst at Córrego do Feijão (Image: Screenshot from BBC News video.)

Mining giant Vale (NYSE: VALE) took a hit on Wednesday when Moody’s Investor Service downgraded its debt to junk.

Moody’s downgraded the miner’s senior unsecured ratings and the ratings on the debt issues of Vale Overseas Limited. The downgrades remove Vale’s credit rating from the investment range entirely.

“The outlook for all ratings is negative,” Moody’s reported. “These rating actions conclude the review for possible downgrade for Vale’s ratings initiated on 29 January 2019 in response to the collapse of the tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão mine in the city of Brumadinho, state of Minas Gerais.”

Following the collapse, Vale declared force majeure on some iron ore contracts after a court-ordered halt to a mine responsible for nearly 9% of its output. The force majeure on some iron ore and pellets sales contracts came after a court on Monday ordered it to stop using eight tailings dams, including one affecting production of about 30 million tonnes of iron ore output per year.

The downgrades remove Vale’s credit rating from the investment range entirely

At market close, Vale’s shares were trading at $12.50, down 16% since before the accident.

Separately on Wednesday, the Brazil Senate passed a dam safety bill in response to the disaster.

The legislation tightens safety regulations on all types of dams, would ban upstream tailings dams similar to those that burst, strengthening a move already taken at the administrative level by the National Mining Agency.

This comes after The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a London-based industry group representing 27 major companies, rallied to set an independent panel of experts in charge of developing a global standard for tailings facilities to be followed by its members.

The Brumadinho disaster spurred a worldwide outcry against Vale and the Brazilian government for allowing two similar disasters to happen in  three years. In 2015, a dam burst in the nearby town of Mariana, killing 19 people.

So far, eight Vale staff and contractors have been arrested in Brazil during the investigation that is part of the fallout from the disaster.

Click here for complete coverage of the dam burst at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mine.

(With files from Reuters)

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