Vale begins key phase of Paraopeba river clean-up amid looming water shortage

Paraopeba river cleaning. (Image courtesy of Vale SA)

Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE), the world’s top iron ore producer, has begun dredging tailings residues from the Paraopeba river, which was seriously contaminated in January, after a dam at the company’s Feijão mine, in the state of Minas Gerais, burst and killed at least 300 people.

According to an independent study published in February, the river reached a level of copper over 600 times above regulation for human consumption. It also had high concentrations of other heavy minerals following the accident.

The news comes as a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry has been looking into the impact of the Brumadinho tragedy on water supplies, concluded that Vale should be charged with homicide

Dredging activities are planned to continue until July 2020, said Vale, starting at the confluence of the Ferro-Covão creek with the Paraopeba river and going about 2 km downstream from that point. It’s estimated that between 300,000 m³ and 350,000 m³ of the mine waste leaked into that area.

The miner said the dredging activity and the implementation of a water treatment system were part of a Tailings Containment Plan presented to authorities following the breach.

The news comes as Brazilian press is reporting that a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI), which has been looking into the impact of the Brumadinho tragedy on water supplies, concluded that Vale should be charged with homicide.

The Commission, O Globo reports, has recommended the immediate decommissioning of all tailings dams built in the Rio das Velhas and Paraopeba basins. In addition, it has asked Vale to build new structures for water catchment, as the locals face a looming water supply shortage.

Vale shares have fallen over 14% so far in 2019, after climbing almost 32% in 2018. The company’s market capitalization now stands at slightly over $57 billion.

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