May 9, 2019 / 9:04 PM / 12 days ago

Exclusive: Brazil's Vale to spend $2.5 billion on technology to prevent mining dam disasters

FILE PHOTO: A view of a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Vale said on Thursday that it plans to invest $2.5 billion over the next five years in technology that removes the need for tailings dams, the waste facilities responsible for two deadly mining disasters in the past four years.

The funds will be mainly used to convert Vale’s Carajas mining complex in northern Brazil to disposing of 100 percent of its tailings through dry processes, Vale’s director of ferrous planning and development, Fabiano Carvalho Filho, said in an email response to questions from Reuters.

Overall, the world’s largest iron ore exporter is aiming to boost the use of so-called dry processing to 70 percent of its output by the end of 2023, from 60 percent today.

Of the 17 processing lines of Plant 1 at Carajas, 11 are already dry and the remaining six wet lines will be converted by 2022, Carvalho Filho said.

In addition, the funds will be used in two projects in Brazil’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais, he said. One is a new processing complex for iron ore and the other is a previously operational mine which Vale is seeking to reactivate.

Vale said the investment is not directly related to the Brumadinho disaster, which left 237 confirmed dead, or the 2015 collapse of another dam at the Samarco joint venture with BHP Group Ltd, that killed 19 others and also caused what is widely considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history.

The dry tailings spending plan is part of an existing program under which Vale has invested almost $17.5 billion over the last 10 years, Carvalho Filho said.

Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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