Brazil rescuers search for hundreds missing after mining dam burst

By Gram
Slattery

BRUMADINHO,
Brazil (Reuters) – Brazilian rescuers continued searching on Saturday for some
200 missing people after a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine owned by Vale
SA, just over three years after the miner was involved in a similar disaster
nearby.

Seven
bodies were found in the hours after the Friday dam burst, but the toll was
expected to rise sharply, said Avimar de Melo Barcelos, the mayor of the
hard-hit town of Brumadinho in the mining-intensive state of Minas Gerais.

Vale
Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman said only one-third of the roughly 300
workers at the site had been accounted for. He said a torrent of sludge tore
through the mine’s offices, including a cafeteria during lunchtime.

President
Jair Bolsonaro was set to visit Minas Gerais and fly over the disaster area on
Saturday morning, after dispatching three ministers there on Friday.

The
state is still recovering from the collapse in November 2015 of a larger dam
that killed 19 people in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster. That dam, owned
by the Samarco Mineracao SA joint venture between Vale and BHP Group Ltd,
buried a village and poured toxic waste into a major river.

Schvartsman
said the dam that burst on Friday at the Feijao iron mine was being
decommissioned and its capacity was about a fifth of the total waste spilled at
Samarco. He said equipment had shown the dam was stable on Jan. 10 and it was
too soon to say why it collapsed.

The
Feijao mine is one of four in Vale’s Paraoeba complex, which includes two
processing plants and produced 26 million tonnes of iron ore in 2017, or about
7 percent of Vale’s total output, according to information on the company’s
website.

Schvartsman
declined to comment on how output would be affected.

Operations
at Samarco remain halted over new licensing, while the companies have worked to
pay damages out of court, including an agreement that quashed a 20 billion
reais ($5.31 billion) civil lawsuit last year. Federal prosecutors suspended
but have still not closed an even larger lawsuit.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery;
Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Reuters

Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in Canary Wharf, London, England and is a division of Thomson Reuters.

Reuters

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