Rains overflow dike at French-owned mine in Brazil, highway cut

Vallourec’s Pau Branco mine in Minas Gerais. (Image courtesy of Vallourec Mineração).

Heavy rainfall caused a dike to overflow on Saturday at a Brazil iron ore mine owned by French steel pipe maker Vallourec, cutting off a major federal highway, the local fire department said.

Nobody was injured and there was no risk of flooding of communities near the Pau Branco mine near Nova Lima, in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil, fire service spokesman Pedro Aihara told reporters.

“It was a dike for the containment of rainwater,” he said, dismissing press reports that a tailings dam might have burst. “There was no structural problem.”

The BR-40 highway, a major transport route that links Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, was blocked in both directions.

Vallourec confirmed that a dike had overflowed. “This is not a dam collapse,” the company said in a statement.

Heavy rainfall has fallen in the area and in other regions of Brazil in recent days. In the northeastern state of Bahia, at least 20 people died in severe flooding.

(By Anthony Boadle and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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