Tag Archives: Health and safety

Brazil bans upstream mining dams after deadly Vale disaster

FILE PHOTO: A member of a rescue team walks next to a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 13, 2019. Picture taken February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves/File Photo

Marta Nogueira | Reuters | 20 February 2019

Brazil’s government on Monday banned new upstream mining dams and ordered the decommissioning of all such dams by 2021, targeting the type of structure that burst last month in the town of Brumadinho, killing hundreds of people.

Those dams, which hold mining byproducts, are cheaper to build but present higher security risks because their walls are constructed over a base of muddy mining waste rather than on solid ground.

In January, one such dam operated by miner Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, collapsed, unleashing a wave of mud that bulldozed nearby structures and has likely killed more than 300 people.

The move by Brazil’s mining regulator, which would impact some 50 upstream mining dams in Brazil’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais state alone, is the strongest governmental response yet to the disaster.

The new regulation orders mining companies to present independently-produced decommission plans by August and ensure that those plans are executed by 2021.

The death toll rose to 169 people as of Sunday night, with 141 people yet to be located.

Several mid-level company executives have been arrested in the wake of the disaster, which comes less than four years after a similar deadly collapse at another upstream dam co-owned by Vale and BHP Group.

While Vale has said it considered the Brumadinho dam to be safe, an October 2018 report showed that the company classified the dam as being two times more likely to fail than the maximum level of risk tolerated under internal guidelines.

Around 200 residents were evacuated from an area near another dam operated by Vale late on Saturday, amid fears that it was structurally weak and could also collapse.

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Half of the world’s biggest miners do not keep track of their tailings risk management measures -report

Brumadinho, where Vale SA’s dam collapsed. Photo Jeso Carneiro | Flickr.

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud | Mining.com | 11 February 2018

Following last month’s tailings dam disaster at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mining complex, which left at least 140 dead, Amsterdam-based Responsible Mining Foundation issued a statement highlighting the findings of its 2018 Responsible Mining Index report related to miners’ tailing dams.

According to the report, many of the world’s largest mining companies are not able to ‘know and show’ how effectively they are addressing the risks of tailings dam failure and seepage.

“The 30 mining companies assessed in RMI 2018 scored an average of only 22% on tracking, reviewing and acting to improve their tailings risk management, with Vale scoring slightly above average. Fifteen of the 30 companies showed no evidence of keeping track of how effectively they are addressing these risks. And while 17 companies showed some sign of reviewing the effectiveness of their tailings risk management measures, no evidence was found of any of these companies publicly disclosing the extent to which they have taken systematic action on the basis of these reviews, to improve how they address tailings-related risks,” the document reads.

The RMF states that the deficiencies many miners show when it comes to sharing information is not limited to their tailings dams. In general, the organization’s study found that most companies fail to adequately share information on how they are managing social and environmental risks. In particular, they fail to provide meaningful site-level performance information.

“Too often, workers, mining-affected communities, governments and investors are kept in the dark about the risks involved and how well companies are addressing these risks. Companies may be reticent to publicly reveal this potentially detrimental and sensitive information, yet it is workers and communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on adequate protection measures being in place,” the report reads.

The Responsible Mining Foundation is convinced that public disclosure would not only save thousands of lives but would also improve the safety of mining projects by allowing for the expert advice of the community which, in turn, would result in improved knowledge of the terrain.

Based on a 2001 report by the International Commission on Large Dams which found that 221 tailings dam failures could have been prevented, the RMF states that by really incorporating the input of all stakeholders in the design, planning and building phases of their projects, miners can learn to refrain from mining in areas where tailings dam failures are most likely to happen and achieve a shared zero-failure objective to tailings storage facilities.

The foundation’s research, on the other hand, has shown that failure risks are greatest for large, steep and old tailings dams in tropical zones where seismic activity and extreme weather events can precipitate dam collapses.

In the case of Vale’s facility, the RMF explained that it was built as part of a series of dams constructed upstream from the original dyke, which makes it the most likely type of tailings dam to fail.

“Vale has now committed to decommissioning all dams built by the upstream method and other companies can clearly follow suit,” the NGO suggested.

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Terrifying moment of Brazil dam collapse caught on camera

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Hundreds feared dead as Brazil dam collapse releases mud tide

Firemen search for people after the dam collapse unleashed a torrent of mud. Photograph: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images

Officials warn few survivors are expected after mining workers in canteen and on a bus are caught in a wave of iron ore waste

Dom Phillips | The Observer | 26 January 2019

Hundreds of people are feared dead after a dam operated by the mining company Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and causing the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

Authorities say that 40 people have died, and more than 300 people remain missing according to the company. The disaster comes only three years after a similar failure of the Fundão tailings dam near Mariana – co-owned by Vale – which killed 19 people.

Speaking after the latest disaster, the local fire chief Col Edgar Estevão said 100 people had been rescued from the sea of mud released by the dam. However, Vale later released a list of 412 employees and contractors whom it had still been unable to contact, and the state governor, Romeu Zema, said he did not expect many more survivors.

“We know now that the chances of having survivors are minimal and that we will probably rescue bodies,” he said.

Brazilian television showed images of survivors being winched to safety by a helicopter after the disaster at the Feijão mine near Brumadinho, less than two hours from the state capital, Belo Horizonte.

“I saw a gigantic cloud of dust and a wave of mud. It was one wave on top of another,” one contractor, Mayke Ferreira, told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. Ferreira said he had been sleeping in a nearby dormitory when he was woken by an enormous crash.

It is not yet clear what caused the tailings dam to burst. However, the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama has already slapped a 250m reais (£50m) fine on Vale for violations related to the tragedy. The company has caused pollution, made the area unfit for habitation and committed other regulatory violations, Ibama said. State prosecutors have also filed a request to freeze 5bn reais in Vale’s accounts to help fund recovery works.

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, visited Minas Gerais and flew over the disaster area. “We will do what is within our reach to attend the victims, minimise damages, investigate the facts, demand justice and prevent new tragedies like Mariana and Brumadinho,” he tweeted.

However, environmentalists have accused Bolsonaro of persistently attacking them for calling for tighter regulations at the mine and for failing to take action to tighten safety there.

“This tragedy was only a matter of time,” said Carlos Eduardo Pinto, a prosecutor who worked on the Mariana case. “Since the Fundão tailings dam, nothing has been done to increase control of this activity.”

Mud and waste from the mining disaster in Minas Gerais. Photograph: António Lacerda/EPA

Most of the victims of the disaster were Vale employees or subcontractors, around 100 of whom were having lunch in a canteen on the mine complex when the torrent of mud swept over them. A busload of workers was also killed, it was reported.

Maicon Vitor, 22, an electro-mechanic technician, told O Globo newspaper that he had just left the canteen when he heard the roar of the tailings dam breaking. “It came down dragging workshops, offices; the whole canteen which was in front of me went,” he said.

Fabio Schvartsman, the chief executive of Vale, said he was devastated by the tragedy. “Most of those affected were Vale employees,” he said. “I’m completely torn apart by what happened.”

Vale said the 86-metre-high tailings dam at the Corrego de Feijão open-cast, iron ore mining complex was built in 1976 and held 11.7m litres of mining waste. It was being decommissioned and had been pronounced safe in inspections.

But the National Civil Society Forum for Hydrographic Basins, a network of civil society groups, said that it had urged the authorities not to grant Vale a licence to continue operations there.

“The population of Casa Branca is very worried, with good reason,” Julio Grillo from Ibama, told a meeting on 11 December, according to minutes obtained by the Observer.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at the state environment agency asked why the company had built a canteen at the foot of the dam. “How can you approve a dam like this with the guy building an administrative centre with canteen at the foot of the tailings dam?”

It cost billions to clean up after the Mariana disaster in 2015, which polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands. Yet no individual was ever held responsible. “Cases like these are not accidents but environmental crimes,” Greenpeace Brazil said in a statement.

“I hope now they will create a new way to mine that doesn’t mount up waste, a safe way of working that does not leave widows,” said Sandra Quintao, a survivor of the Mariana disaster.

The Mariana dam was operated by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian mining giant.

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Brazil dam collapse: hundreds missing after another mining disaster

Handout picture released by the Minas Gerais Fire Department showing an aerial view taken after the collapse of a dam near the town of Brumadinho in south-eastern Brazil, on Friday. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Disaster released a wave of orange sludge after a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine, with scores of people still trapped

Dom Phillips | The Guardian | 25 January 2019

As many as 200 people are missing after three dams operated by the mining giant Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red mining waste and prompting fears of widespread contamination.

At least 50 people died in the disaster on Friday, Avimar de Melo, mayor of the nearby town of Brumadinho told the Hoje em Dia newspaper. “We don’t have any more details because it’s all happening very quickly,” he said.

Brazilian television showed images of survivors being winched to safety by a helicopter after the disaster at the Feijão mine near Brumadinho, less than two hours from the state capital, Belo Horizonte.

Among those missing were 100 mine workers who were having lunch in an administrative area when it was hit by a torrent of sludge and water, said a fire brigade spokesman, Lieutenant Pedro Aihara.

“Our main worry now is to quickly find out where the missing people are,” Aihara said on GloboNews cable television channel.

Videos shared on social media showed houses buried in the mud and local media reported that the nearby Inhotim outdoor art complex had been evacuated though not affected.

The dam collapse came less than four years after Brazil’s worst environmental disaster was caused by the failure of a tailings dam at Mariana in the same state. That dam was operated by Samarco, which at the time of the disaster was half-owned by Vale.

“I don’t have words to describe my suffering, my enormous sadness, my disappointment in what has just happened. It is beyond anything you can imagine,” Vale’s CEO, Fabio Schvartsman, said in an address on YouTube.

He said the company had made an “enormous effort” to make its tailings dams safe after the Mariana disaster. “The whole of Vale will do whatever is possible to help the people affected,” he said.

Fire brigades and the Minas Gerais civil defence authority were leading rescue efforts, the company said in a statement.

“There were employees in the administrative area, which was hit by rejects, indicating the possibility, still unconfirmed, of victims. Part of the community of Vila Ferteco was also hit. There is still no confirmation of the cause of the accident,” it said .

Brazil’s ministry of the environment said it had set up a crisis cabinet after the three dams broke. The environment minister, Ricardo Salles, and Eduardo Bim, head of the ministry’s environment agency Ibama are on their way to the scene.

“Our major concern at this moment is to attend any victims of this serious tragedy,” Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, tweeted. “All reasonable measures are being taken.”

Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasília that he would fly to Minas Gerais on Saturday morning and fly over the region “so we can once again re-evaluate the damage and take all the reasonable measures to minimise the suffering of relatives and possible victims as well as the environmental issue”.

Bolsonaro has attacked environment agencies including Ibama for holding up development with what he describes as excessive licensing requirements and advocated freeing up mining in protected indigenous reserves.

Environmentalists said Brazil had failed to learn from the Mariana disaster, in which 375 families lost their homes, and are yet to be rehoused. The three companies which operated the Mariana dam – Samarco, Vale and the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton – spent more than $1bn on a huge clean-up and relief operation and paid millions of dollars in fines over the disaster. But no individual has been convicted.

“This new disaster with a mining waste tailings dam – this time in Brumadinho – is the sad consequence of a lesson not learnt by the Brazilian state and mining companies,” said Greenpeace Brasil’s campaigns director, Nilo D’Avila, in a statement. “Cases like these are not accidents but environmental crimes that should be investigated, punished and repaired.”

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Goldmine tragedy in Fiji

An aerial view of the Vatukoula Gold Mine outside Tavua.

An aerial view of the Vatukoula Gold Mine outside Tavua. Picture: VGML

Repeka Nasiko | Fiji Times | 3 January, 2019

A 47-year-old Chinese national died instantly after rocks fell on his head at a Vatukoula Gold Mine Ltd shaft last weekend.

Police Intelligence and Investigation chief ACP Vakacegu Toduadua said the accident occurred at the mining company’s Dolphin Shaft early Saturday, December 29, 2018.

“A rock fell on the head of a 47-year-old Chinese national who died instantly at the scene while a second 48-year-old Chinese national received injuries,” he said.

“Both were taken to Lautoka Hospital. “A post-mortem (examination) of the deceased has been completed and we have yet to receive the report from the Mineral Resources Department mine inspectors to ascertain the negligence part of the management.”

Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Department acting director Apete Soro said their officials were alerted of the fatal accident last Saturday.

“The ministry through the Mineral Resources Department was informed around 1:15 am of the accident which occurred an hour earlier,” he said.

“A team from the department, which included the manager of the mining division who is a mine engineer and his assistant, were mobilised to Vatukoula the same night and confirmed upon arrival that one male fatality and another male was admitted to Tavua Hospital.

“The latter was later transferred to Lautoka Hospital, but has since been discharged.”

He said an investigation by the department was in progress.

“The team are currently undertaking preliminary investigation which will then lead to the Board of Inquiry under the discretion of the Director of Mines.”

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Unauthorised Miners To Be Fined

Post Courier | September 27, 2018

The Mineral Resources Authority has started ridding unauthorized semi mechanized or mechanized mining in the country.

Unauthorized alluvial mining is predominant in the Wau and Bulolo areas of Morobe Province.

Illegal alluvial miners face a fine of up to K10,000 or prison term of up to four years.

Recently MRA issued 13 stop work notices to individuals engaged in the illegal activities in Wau and Bulolo.

MRA stated such activities are not only illegal but pose substantial environmental and safety risks to miners themselves and the surrounding communities.

MRA’s acting managing director Nathan Mosusu appealed to the miners to adhere to the regulatory requirements, which is part of MRA’s regulatory compliance responsibilities.

Mr Mosusu said MRA has in the past demonstrated its openness and commitment to developing the alluvial sector in collaboration with miners, but it is the miners’ obligation to ensure they operate in compliance.

“I am asking miners to work with MRA for the betterment of the sector. Together we can achieve results,” Mr Mosusu said.

The Mining Act 1992, section 167 states – a person shall not carry on exploration or mining on any land unless he is duly authorised under this Act.

The MRA said the deaths of alluvial miners from cave-ins caused by unauthorised mining activities, and failures to adhere to safety requirements have become common.

It said tunneling and sluicing as part of these unauthorised operations has damaged local roads especially between Wau and Bulolo.

The Wau and Bulolo areas have a long history of alluvial mining that dates back to the 1920s.

At present, there are 81 active alluvial mining tenements and 50 inactive historic tenements granted under the previous mining legislation.

The 50 historic tenements are yet to be converted to alluvial leases recognised under the current Mining Act 1992. Once converted, the terms of these converted tenements would then ensure key safety and environmental aspects of mining operations are regulated appropriately.

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