Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, said on Monday that it would slash output from its Brucutu mine for up to two months as it evaluates the stability of the nearby Laranjeiras dam, where much of the mine’s waste is normally disposed.
The move will leave Brucutu, Vale’s biggest mine in Minas Gerais state, the industry’s longtime heartland, operating at 40% of normal capacity for the period, cutting its output by 1.5 million tonnes.
As a result, Vale lowered its iron ore production outlook for the first quarter to a range of 68 million to 73 million tonnes from a previously announced range of 70 million to 75 million tonnes.
Vale said it will adopt a “level one emergency protocol” at the dam during what it said would be an “assessment of its geotechnical characteristics,” normally a term for dam stability. Such a protocol is the lowest level of alert and does not require any evacuation of the surrounding area.
Earlier this year, Vale slashed production at Brucutu under pressure from prosecutors, one of a series of shutdowns following the company’s deadly dam burst in the town of Brumadinho in the same state.
Monday’s shutdown announcement coincided with a Vale presentation to investors and analysts in New York that focused on measures to improve dam safety by scaling back the use of tailings dams as well as plans to gradually ramp up iron ore production in the coming years.
(By Roberto Samora; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)