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Brazil’s Vale issues maximum safety alert for 3 more dams

March 28, 2019

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian mining giant Vale said a total of four of its dams could collapse at any moment, putting the company under renewed scrutiny just months after a rupture at another of its dams near the city of Brumadinho killed 212 people and left 93 missing.

On Wednesday night, the company raised the risk level at three of its mining dams to the highest grade, saying that independent auditors found they would not meet a new safety standard. It took similar measures on Saturday for one of its waste dams in the city of Barao de Cocais.

According to Brazil’s mining and energy secretary, level three means that “a rupture is imminent or already happening.”

In a statement, the company said that it “continues to adopt a series of preventative measures to increase security conditions at its dams.”

It also said that it sounded actual alarms in rural areas on Wednesday where the state cannot guarantee a timely rescue, although evacuation orders had already been issued in those same places in February.

The latest emergency alert comes just over two months after the company was blamed for the Brumadinho dam collapse, which led to the arrests of several Vale employees and independent auditors.

Two weeks after the tragedy, an alarm rang out to over 500 residents in the middle of the night saying: “Attention! This is a real dam rupture emergency. Abandon your homes immediately.” Vale said that measure was merely preventative.

Brumadinho was Vale’s second fatal dam collapse in recent years.

In November 2015, a dam owned by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton also burst, killing 19 people and contaminating river and ocean waters.