Vale creates role of safety czar after two deadly dam collapses

Brumadinho, Minas Gerais. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Brazilian mining giant Vale SA said on Wednesday it had created the new role of executive director for safety and operational excellence, following a dam burst in January that killed hundreds, its second such disaster in three years.

The world’s largest iron ore miner said it had recruited Carlos Medeiros for the role, a Brazilian executive who led the North and Central American operations of Ball Corporation, which makes aluminum cans.

Vale has faced increased scrutiny from regulators, prosecutors and investors in the wake of the January disaster, which took place in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, the center of mining production in Latin America’s largest economy. The previous dam disaster, which took place in 2015, also happened in the same state.

Separately, the miner said on Wednesday it had determined that a third dam, also located in Minas Gerais, was less likely to collapse after safety measures were implemented. In a statement, Vale reduced the dam’s “alert level” from 2 to 1.

Production near the dam, known as Vargem Grande, had already been suspended in the wake of January’s disaster and 51 people had been relocated, Vale said. The miner said it would schedule a meeting with those who had been relocated to evaluate a potential return to their homes.

(By Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Bernadette Baum)