Vale evacuates 200 people from town near its Mar Azul mine

The aftermath of Vale’s tailings dam collapse near Brumadinho. (Photo by Romerito Pontes, Flickr)

Brazilian mining giant Vale (NYSE:VALE) issued a statement on Saturday saying that it had ordered the evacuation of some 200 people residing or working in 49 buildings that are located near its Mar Azul mine, in Nova Lima, Minas Gerais.

This is the same Brazilian state where a tailings dam breach killed at least 166 people in late January and where over a hundred people are still missing.

According to Vale, the decision to evacuate the town was made following the escalation to Level 2 of the Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams for the B3/B4 dam at Mar Azul. The climb in the alert system was prompted after company experts reviewed data from analysis reports provided to them by specialized advisory firms.

The facility at the iron ore mine, however, is inactive so the miner said the exit measure is precautionary.

Area evacuated on February 16, 2019.

The company also said that the evacuees are being assisted and registered at a community centre, where they will receive additional information and support until the situation stabilizes. They will also be placed in hotels in the region.

On February 8, some 700 people were evacuated as well in Minas Gerais due to the risk of another tailings pond failure. Of those, 500 people were asked to flee a rural town near Vale’s Gongo Soco mine’s dam, while a 200-person community situated downstream of ArcelorMittal’s dormant Serra Azul tailing dam was also relocated.

Mining dams are coming under increasing scrutiny and vigilance both from companies and authorities in Brazil following the collapse at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho last month, the second such incident involving the same company in about three years.

This most recent accident prompted the arrest of 13 Vale employees, including two executives and two engineers working on behalf of the company, as well as four people from the German consulting group Tüv Süd, which certified the safety of the dam that collapsed.