January 30, 2019 / 11:45 AM / 5 months ago

Brazil hydroelectric plant pauses operations after Vale disaster

SAO PAULO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Retiro Baixo hydroelectric plant has suspended operations to preserve its equipment but the dam is safe, state-owned Eletrobras said, after last week’s deadly disaster at a mining dam owned by Vale.

Vale’s Brumadinho tailings dam, used to store the muddy detritus from mining, collapsed on Friday, killing at least 84 in one of Brazil’s largest industrial accidents on record.

The Retiro Baixo plant in Minas Gerais, which has 82 megawatts (MW) capacity, is owned Eletrobras subsidiary Furnas and by state mining company Cemig.

“The operation of the plant has been interrupted, spillway tests have been carried out and the water intakes have been closed to preserve the equipment,” Furnas said in s statement issued late on Tuesday.

“It is in contact with the competent authorities to evaluate the effects of mud displacement and to take new measures,” it said, adding that Retiro Baixo dam was safe and had been inspected by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) in 2018.

Vale’s Brumadinho disaster, coming just over three years after a similar incident at another mine partially controlled by Vale, has fueled calls for a management overhaul and erased more than 70 billion reais ($19 billion) in Vale’s market value.

Reporting by Luciano Costa Writing by Gabriel Stargardter and Edmund Blair

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