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Vale to resume operations at Onça Puma nickel mine

Onça Puma nickel mine. (Image: Vale)

Vale will resume operations at its Onca Puma nickel mine after obtaining a federal court order lifting an injunction that had suspended an operating licence.

Operations at Onça Puma were first halted in early October because of alleged non-compliance with local regulations.

A judge granted Vale an injunction on October 7 allowing it to resume activities, but that decision was subsequently overturned by a higher state court on October 18.

Deforestation and pollution

The Pará state environment department said on October 4 that the license was suspended due to Vale’s failure to comply with terms of the permit, which included an obligation to provide services for communities surrounding the mine.

Small farmers in the region allege that they live in isolation and have not received any support from Vale since the project started. 

According to a report from the NGO Finnwatch, Vale operations generated deforestation and polluted the Cateté river, and threaten the lifestyle of the Amazon’s indigenous trib the Xikrin.

In 2018, a Brazilian court ordered Vale to pay the Xikrin and Kayapo indigenous tribes $26.8 million over river contamination and public health-related issues.

Vale’s nickel production in Brazil reached 16,000 tonnes in 2020. Onça Puma accounted for 7.5% of its total nickel production last year.

Output at the mine is well below the nominal annual capacity of 58,000 tonnes of nickel contained in ferronickel.

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