RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The prosecutor’s office for Brazil’s Minas Gerais state warned Thursday that a dam holding back mining waste could collapse in the next few days and told its operator, mining giant Vale, to warn nearby residents.
Vale reported unusual movement at a mining slope one mile from the Congo Soco mine, in the city of Barão de Cocais, about 40 miles from where the Brumadinho dam collapsed, killing more than 230 people.
The mining company said in a late afternoon statement that it remained unclear whether the slippage in the embankment would actually trigger a collapse of the nearby Sul Superior dam, but said it was raising its level of alert and readiness for such an extreme case.
According to a technical report obtained by prosecutors, it was established that if the motion continued, the slope could rupture sometime between May 18th and 25th.
The warning underlines ongoing concern about the stability of dams in Brazil’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais in the aftermath of the Brumadinho accident, which itself came less than four years after another deadly dam collapse at a joint venture between Vale and BHP Group.
Earlier this week, Vale had identified movement close to the mine, which has not been active since 2016, the prosecutors said.
About 500 people deemed at risk from a collapse of the dam have been evacuated from their homes since February under orders from mining regulator ANM.
The dam was placed under a maximum risk level in February, and people living in close vicinity were then evacuated as a precaution.
In March, Vale warned that four of its dams in Brazil could collapse at any moment.
A few weeks ago, the Federation of Industries of the State of Minas Gerais (FIEMG) produced a report on the partial stoppage of mining activities in the State.
According to the report published by the institution, the halting of ore production could reach 90 million tonnes annually in 2020 and 65 million tonnes in 2021, which would result in a decrease of net sales of approximately R$24.9 billion.