A dam disaster in Brazil has left 60 people dead and more than 300 missing, calling into questin the safety record of iron major – Vale.

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CEO Fabio Schvartsman flies over Brumadinho after dam breach. Image courtesy ©Vale

The inactive dam, which held back mining waste at Vale’s Córrego de Feijão mine in Minas Gerais, collapsed last Friday inundating a nearby community with sludge. The tragedy echoes a 2015 incident in the same region where the Fundão tailings dam burst at the Samarco joint venture between Vale and BHP, making it the country’s worst environmental disaster.

On Sunday 27 January, Vale had confirmed that the Civil Defence had lowered the critical level of Dam VI from 2 to 1, which permitted those who left their homes to return and the search for those missing to commence.

Vale's CEO, Fabio Schvartsman, returned to Brumadinho to follow the support work being carried out for those affected by the breach of the dam.

The CEO flew back to the region of the accident early in the afternoon and was at the Control Centre at ASA College in Brumadinho. Mr Schvartsman spoke to employees, volunteers, Civil Defence, Fire Service and the Military Police, as well as local authorities.

“It is impossible to come here and not become emotional by the sadness of the situation and the superhuman efforts of all those assisting in this operation. For our part, Vale is putting everything it has available, all equipment and human resources, without limits,” said Mr Schvartsman.

On Saturday, a day after the breach, Mr Schvartsman flew over the region and met with representatives of state and federal governments to evaluate the supporting measures of the rescue and the care of those affected and their families.

Mr Schvartsman said that Vale had created a working group, which in the next few days will present a plan to raise the safety standard of the company's dams. The objective, according to Mr Schvartsman, is to overcome the most rigorous parameters that exist today in Brazil and in the world.

“It seems to me that there is only one solution: we have to go beyond any standard, national or international. We are going to create a safety mattress that is far superior to what we have today,” said the executive.

Vale's legal team began the first phase of the internal investigation to determine the causes of the accident, with preliminary results shared with federal and state authorities.

“Vale is the most interested party in determining the causes of the dam breach,” said Alexandre D'Ambrosio, Vale's General Counsel. “Even before the issuing of the arrest warrant, I have met with the Federal and State Public Prosecutor's Office in Minas Gerais to reinforce Vale's commitment to the determination of the facts. We are fully available to provide the authorities with any information.”

The company's director told that during the search and seizure of documents in the Águas Claras Mine, in Minas Gerais, state police requested the company permission to expand the proceeding to the Mutuca Mine, which was promptly arranged. It wasn't included in the warrant.

Source: www.vale.com