Brazil cautious on re-starting hydro dams after mining spill – by Luciano Costa (Reuters U.S. – January 8, 2016)

SAO PAULO – Four hydroelectric dams along Brazil’s Rio Doce remain closed for an indefinite time after a deadly mining spill in November flooded the river with thick mud, according to water agency ANA.

ANA said in an emailed statement that only one of four hydro plants along the 800 km (497 mile) river, which runs through states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, had requested to power up as the others continue to assess potential damage from the spill.

The bursting of a dam at the Samarco iron ore mine on Nov. 5 caused Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, releasing between 30 million and 60 million cubic meters (7.9 billion to 15.9 billion gallons) of mining waste. The resulting flood killed at least 17 people, left hundreds homeless and polluted the river.

Samarco is a joint venture of Brazil’s Vale SA and Australia’s BHP Billiton.

The flood destroyed one tiny 1.8 megawatt hydrodam run by Grupo AVG and disabled others, which produce a combined 790 megawatts.

The dams account for about 1 percent of Brazil’s hydroelectric capacity, and their outage, though not a threat to the power supply, adds to an electricity crisis stoked by severe droughts and construction delays on the large Belo Monte dam.

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