Vale denied stability certifications at 13 dams, four dikes

April 2, 2019

Troubles continue for Vale SA in the wake of the deadly tailings dam failure in January that left an estimated 300 people dead as the company reported that it had failed to obtain stability certificates for at 17 dams and dikes after those licenses expired on March 31.

The world’s largest iron ore miner also disclosed in a securities filing that a court had frozen an additional 1 billion reais ($258.42 million) in assets over potential damages related to the evacuation of its Vargem Grande dam.

Despite the disclosures, Vale shares jumped to their highest point since the Jan. 25 disaster, rising 3.6 percent to 52.79 reais. The shares pared gains to close 3.3 percent higher at 52.60 reais on April 1.

Reuters reported that iron ore futures contracts for May delivery rose as much as 5.2 percent on Dalian Commodity Exchange to hit a seven-week high on Monday, on strong economic data from China and supply concerns after Rio Tinto cut its 2019 forecast for iron ore shipments.
Prices have also been buoyed by production cuts at Vale, which said it expects to sell 75 Mt (83 million st) less than planned this year following the dam burst and heightened security concerns over its tailing ponds.

Brazil’s iron ore exports fell 25.9 percent in March over the same month in 2018 to 22.18 Mt (24.4 million st), the lowest monthly volume in six years due to the drop in Vale output.

Courts now have frozen a total of 17.6 billion reais in Vale assets since the Jan. 25 disaster when a tailings dam burst at a Vale iron ore mine in the town of Brumadinho, in southeastern Minas Gerais state, burying hundreds of people in mining waste.

In response to the disaster, Vale and the Brazilian government are reviewing the safety of all of the miner’s dams.

The miner disclosed that although 80 structures had their stability certificates renewed, another 13 dams and four dikes did not receive certifications.

Seven of them are so-called upstream tailings dams, the same type as the one that ruptured in Brumadinho. The areas around those dams have already been evacuated as a preventative safety measure.

The lack of safety certifications for the other structures will not require further evacuations, although they remain at higher states of alert under an official system that rates the risks of rupture.

Vale has said it has taken all upstream tailings dams offline as a precaution until they can be decommissioned, which could require them to reduce their output by up to 10 percent.

Vale slashed its 2019 iron ore sales forecast by up to 20 percent to 75 Mt (83 million st). Vale Chief Financial Officer Luciano Siani told analysts that safety and not boosting production remains the company’s priority.

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