A Brazilian court has ordered Vale (NYSE:VALE) to pay two indigenous tribes $26.8 million over river contamination and public health-related issues caused by the company’s nickel-extracting operations in the northern state of Pará.
The judge also instructed Vale to halt operations at its Onça Puma nickel mine, which has been running for a decade, until it meets certain environmental requirements and presents plans aimed at mitigating and compensating the Xikrin and Kayapo tribes, local magazine Fórum reported.
Vale said in a statement quoted by Fórum that it would appeal the decision as “experts’ reports show that the venture has not caused any harm to the Catete river and the indigenous communities.”
The company added that the court decision did not bring anything new to “a case that is still ongoing.”
Production at Onça Puma reached 6,100 tonnes of nickel in the third quarter of this year, or just over 10% the total produced by Vale, the world’s largest producer of the metal.
Nickel prices climbed around 75% in the first half of 2018, prompting investment in related projects. Vale itself decided in June to move ahead with construction of an underground mine at its Voisey’s Bay nickel mine, located in Canada’s Atlantic province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The company also suspended the sale of a stake in another of its nickel mines — New Caledonia, located on the remote South Pacific island.
Prices have fallen since and remain volatile because of oversupply, despite the metal’s key role in lithium-ion batteries that are used in electric cars.
The nickel sector is becoming a two-tiered market, with a weaker outlook for materials bound for the stainless steel industry and robust demand growth in the electric vehicles (EV) sector that’ll support prices, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a note last month.