Heavy rains put dams on alert 3 years after rupture in Brumadinho

18 of the 31 mining structures in Minas Gerais at risk

Published in 25/01/2022 - 11:45 By Léo Rodrigues – Repórter da Agência Brasil - Rio de Janeiro

Heavy rains in the first weeks of 2022 in the state of Minas Gerais (MG) have put the mining sector on alert. Residents of areas close to mines and dams are once again fearing the repetition of tragedies such as that of Brumadinho. The accident that took the lives of 270 people happened exactly three years ago on Tuesday (Jan. 25).

Since then, the mining sector and the government have announced measures that promised to bring greater security to the population. However, a report released last week by the Public Prosecution of Minas Gerais (MPMG) shows that the current scenario continues to raise concerns, since 18 of the 31 mining structures in the state need emergency measures.

The document is the result of a partnership with the Environmental Foundation (Feam), an environmental agency linked to Minas Gerais state’s government. Information such as the average rainfall that fell on each dam, the existence or not of a plan for the rainy season, the evaluation of the performance of the drainage system, references to anomalies and pathologies recorded, besides planned maintenance and monitoring actions were gathered.

The survey, which is considered preventive, was released as a response to recent events, in the midst of torrential rains. In some places, more than 200 millimeters were recorded in just two days.

According to MPMG, the mining companies had a period of five days to present documents and provide clarification. Exposed to high rainfall, the 18 structures need some type of specific intervention to prevent further complications.

On January 8, a dike at Pau Branco mine, which belongs to the French mining company Vallourec, overflowed in Nova Lima (MG). There was no rupture of the structure and no deaths, but the federal highway BR-040 was hit and was closed for almost two days. Vallourec received a fine of BRL 288 million ($ 52.5 million dollars) from the Minas government.

A day later, the scare was in Pará de Minas (MG). The population living around the water dam of Carioca Hydroelectric Power Plant was urged to leave their homes in a hurry due to the risk of rupture.

In Congonhas (MG), National Steel Company (CSN) justified the suspension of the activities` on January 9 due to the increased volume of rain. A decision by the Minas Gerais Court of Justice (TJMG) determined two weeks ago that Civil Defense inspectors investigate the situation near Casa de Pedra dam.

The mining company assures that the landslides occur in the area outside the dam and that it is working to solve the problem. On January 11, CSN also raised the alert for B2 dam at Fernandinho Mine, in Rio Acima (MG).

On January 13, Vale announced the change in safety conditions in two structures: Área IX dam, at Fábrica Mine in Ouro Preto (MG), and the Elefante Dike, at Água Limpa Mine at Piracicaba River (MG).

"The company has already started studies and corrective actions in both cases. There is no permanent occupation of people in the self-rescue zones", informed the mining company.

Due to heavy rains, operations in several mines have been suspended. The Brazilian Mining Institute (Ibram), which represents the largest companies in the sector, issued a note saying that the sector acts with caution in the face of natural phenomena and that interruption of activities was part of temporary precautionary measures to minimize risks.

"If this intensity of rains lasts for a short period, Ibram estimates that there will be no impact on the variation in the price of ores and on the supply. All the structures that make up the companies - such as tailings dams - are being monitored 24 hours a day and any sign of abnormality is promptly reported to authorities and emergency measures, such as alerts, are taken immediately”, the institute says.

 

Translation: Mário Nunes -  Edition: Denise Griesinger / Nira Foster

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