By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – After months of anticipation, fragments of the northern slope of the Gongo Soco Mine in Barão de Cocais have broken free from the structure. Mining giant Vale, however, Friday morning released a statement saying that the fragments have settled at the bottom of the pit and have not caused the Gongo Soco dam to rupture.
“Vale advises that during the dawn on Friday it identified the detachment of fragments from the northern slope of the Cava of Gongo Soco Mine, in Barão de Cocais. Early assessments indicate that the material is sliding gradually, which so far corroborates estimates that the slope’s crumbling should occur without major consequences.”
According to the company, the dam, which is 1.5 km from the mine, is being monitored twenty-four hours per day via radar, drones and a robotic station capable of detecting millimetric movements.
The dam has been at level 3 alert since March 22nd, and approximately 450 people living immediately below the dam had been evacuated preventively on February 8th.
Since then, residents of Barão de Cocais have been living with the possibility of the dam’s rupture and the city’s evacuation.
At first, the mining company, Civil Defense and National Mining Agency, all said that the movement of the slope might cause it to disintegrate abruptly and the vibration could cause the rupture of the Upper South Dam.
Authorities had estimated that the northern slope would start to crumble between May 19-25th, but the deadline came and went, and the situation did not change. Residents participated in two emergency evacuation drills.
The next few hours, say experts, will reveal how the dam will react to the disintegrating debris of the slope.
“We will keep the community of Barão de Cocais informed about the situation,” concluded Vale.