RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian mining giant Vale said Saturday that communities in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais have been ordered to evacuate, after independent auditors found that one of its dams could collapse at any moment.
On Friday, the company raised the level of risk at a mining waste dam in the city of Barao de Cocais to three, the highest grade. According to Brazil’s mining and energy secretary, level three means that “a rupture is imminent or already happening.”
Some communities had already been told to leave by state authorities in February after Vale raised risk levels to grade two, company spokeswoman Cinthia Saito said.
Saito said Vale did not yet know how many people had complied with the order.
Lt. Col. Flavio Godinho, of the state’s civil defence department, told reporters that authorities are studying the Barao de Cocais structure to review the existing contingency plan.
“Any activity at the dam could trigger a rupture,” Godinho said on Globo TV.
The news comes nearly two months after another Vale-operated dam in the nearby city of Brumadinho collapsed, unleashing a wave of toxic mud that contaminated rivers and almost certainly killed about 300 people.
The type of structure used to hold back mining waste in Brumadinho was the same as the one currently in use in Barao de Cocais, which lies about 150 kilometres (93 miles) away.
State authorities banned the construction last month, but companies were given 90 days to present plans to substitute the dams within three years.
Vale said in a statement it was already in the process of replacing ten such dams.
The Associated Press