Opinion: Brazil’s Brumadinho is Vale’s Worst Nightmare – by Michael Royster (Rio Times – February 25, 2019)

Rio Times

The former poster child for privatization now faces receivership or even bankruptcy, as neither government officials nor investors in the market will forgive it for those 300 lost lives.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brumadinho is a municipality south of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, where some 12 million cubic meters of iron ore tailings were impounded — until late last month when the “Feijão” dam broke, with catastrophic consequences — estimates are that some 300 lives have been lost.

Vale S.A., once known as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) but now universally called simply “Vale”, is a mining behemoth, the world’s largest producer of iron ore. Much of its production of iron ore is in Minas Gerais, where it has dozens of mines.

Mariana is a municipality near historic Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, where in November 2015 some 62 million cubic meters of impounded iron ore tailings were released when the dam broke. This disaster caused the loss of nineteen lives, along with immense ecological damage to the Rio Doce, Vale’s namesake river. Vale was a fifty percent owner of Samarco, the company whose tailings dam failed.

What do these dam failings have in common? Both started out small, then used the “upstream” method to increase impoundment capacity — tailings stored and buried by the dam were moved back and upwards, creating “steps” rising upstream.

It is universally recognized that the upstream method of increasing dam size is the cheapest; unfortunately, it is also universally recognized that these dams are the most likely to break, because they contain little or no concrete, and are subject to liquefaction.

For the rest of this article: https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/opinion-editorial/opinion-brazils-brumadinho-is-vales-worst-nightmare/

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