Collapse of Vale Dam Underscores Need for Regulatory Reform

Collapse of Vale Dam Underscores Need for Regulatory Reform

JANUARY 29, 2019

On Friday, January 25, 2019, a tailings dam at Vale SA’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho in Minas Gerais, Brazil, collapsed. Floods of mud and mining waste swept through the company’s facilities and nearby communities, killing at least 60 people and leaving almost 300, mostly Vale employees, missing. While the precise cause of the collapse of the dam has yet to be established, its occurrence only three years after a similar tragedy at another Brazilian mine operated by Samarco Mineração S.A., jointly owned by Vale and BHP Group, supports the conclusion reached by a 2017 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal that an international review of regulatory systems regarding tailings management is urgently required. The study, Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident, acknowledges industry efforts at improving standards and industry preference for self-regulation, but calls for a comprehensive review of systems, prospectively based on the model of the European Union mining waste regulation, as well as underlying risk assessments, most importantly climate change impacts.

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