Business

Dams

Dams

Dams

Vale’s places a priority on optimizing its safety procedures, reinvigorating its pact with society, and providing increased transparency with regards to its dams. All information below refers to Brazil.

For these reasons, we are bringing together here our main initiatives for the management and monitoring of our dams. Explore this page and learn more about our processes and what has been done.

About dams and tailings

Some technical terms with regards to dams can be found throughout this page. We have developed a glossary that will help you to understand all of the information contained on this webpage.

Ilustração caminhão
What is a dam and how does it work?

Dams are geotechnical structures designed by engineers to contain solids, liquids, or a mixture of solids and liquids. Dams are generally used at Vale for containing sediment, tailings, or water.

What are tailings?

Tailings are the material that is left over after natural moisture processing of iron ore. Tailings are composed of iron ore, sand, and water, and are not toxic, corrosive, or flammable.

What are the possible methods for construction and raising that can be used with dams?

When a dam is built, a dyke is constructed in order to contain the iron ore tailings. This is the starter dam. As the dam continues to receive more tailings, new layers are built onto the starter dam - an operation that is referred to as raising. There are different types of raising works that can be executed with dams. The main types of raising used by Vale are the downstream construction method (the conventional model) and the upstream construction method. In addition to these models, “Single stage” dams, which are not raised, are also used. Learn more about single stage dams below:

Since the dam collapse at Brumadinho, Vale has committed itself to eliminating dam structures that have been raised using the upstream construction method in line with recent dam legislation that determined that these types of structures are to be decommissioned.

Single stage tailings dams

No raising is executed under this model. The dam is constructed on soil or compacted rockfill (large groups of rocks), without subsequent raising works carried out to increase its capacity.

Downstream / conventional dam construction method

The dam shell is constructed on compacted soils regardless of the type of tailings that are deposited into the dam. Raising is carried out in the direction of the flow of water (downstream). The dam is built up on top of itself, in the same direction as the current of waste, which improves the stability of the structure.

Upstream dam construction method

The dam’s body is built using tailings through successive raising works that are executed on the deposited tailings themselves. Raising is carried out against the flow of water (upstream). Upstream tailings dams require thick tailings in order to build the dam shell. The dam is built up on top of the initial dyke using embankments that are made from the tailings themselves.

“Centerline” dam construction method

The centerline construction method is a variant of the upstream construction method, in which successive raising is carried out in such a manner that the dam crest remains in its initial position or, in other words, coincides with the crest of the starter dam. Raises are built up on top of one another, maintaining a symmetrical dam crest.

Why do they exist?

Dams exist for various purposes. A water dam, for example, can help generate hydroelectric energy or increase water availability in a given location. In Mining, dams are part of the ore production process that, after being extracted from the ground, undergoes the separation of impurities. What remains of this process is deposited in the dams, which are reservoirs for containing this material.

Vale’s dams

Vale’s dams

Do you know how many dams Vale has?

In Brazil, Vale has 110 dams, including active, paralyzed, defaced or under construction structures. Of these, all those built in the upstream method, the same as the B1 dam in Brumadinho, are being eliminated by the decharacterization process.

And where are they?

85 are in Minas Gerais, 19 in Pará and 3 in Mato Grosso do Sul. Of these, Vale has 67 dams in operation and 37 inactive. We also have three other structures under implementation.

* Data according to structures registered under the National Dam Safety Policy (PNSB, in Portuguese). Updated September/2021

The elimination of upstream structures

The process to eliminate the dams upstream of Vale, the decharacterization, encompasses many stages, studies and care with the particularities of each dam. Our commitment is to eliminate 30 dams in Minas Gerais and Pará, 7 of which have already been delivered.

Understand which dams will be eliminated, the deadlines, locations and all the steps of this process:

Dam Locations

Dam Locations

We have created a map in which it is possible to see where our dams are located, view photos and documents from the Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM), as well as maps of the flood and emergency procedures. The map can be viewed below:

Click under the states to see the dams concerned

Dams located in Brazil

Pará

OurilânDay do Norte

Select one of the dams below for more information

Barragem Igarapé

Pará

Canaã dos Carajás

Select one of the dams below for more information

Pará

Parauapebas

Select one of the dams below for more information

Azul

Estéril Sul

Geladinho

Gelado

Jacaré

Kalunga

Pera Jusante

Pera Montante

Captação de Água

Pondes de Rejeitos

Pará

Marabá

Select one of the dams below for more information

Barragem de Rejeito do Mirim

Captação de Água do Igarapé MA

Barragem de finos l

Dique de Finos l

Dique de Finos ll

Dique de Finos lll

Minas Gerais

Nova Lima

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

Sabará

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

Barão de Cocais

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

Itabira

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

Belo Vale

Select one of the dams below for more information

Minas Gerais

Rio Acima

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Minas Gerais

Santa Bárbara

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Minas Gerais

Rio Piracicaba

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Diogo

ED Vale das Cobras

Elefante

Minas Gerais

Jeceaba

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Minas Gerais

Congonhas

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Minas Gerais

Itabirito

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Minas Gerais

Ouro preto

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Minas Gerais

Mariana

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Minas Gerais

Catas Altas

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Mato Grosso do Sul

Corumbá

Select one of the dams below for more information

Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management ("GISTM")

Vale has been reviewing and structuring its new tailings management policy day by day. This policy is based on market best practices and ensures that our dams are safe.

To learn more about GISTM,visit Vale’s ESG Portal

Safety

Safety

Everything that you need to know about safety and emergency procedures at Vale’s dams

Our work focused on preventing risks. Therefore, we periodically request reviews that are carried out by independent external companies in order to receive updates on the physical and hydraulic safety conditions at our dams. These reviews adhere to legal requirements provided for under Brazilian standards and agreements executed with official government organs such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and National Mining Agency (ANM). Watch the video below and learn more:

Regular Safety Inspection Report (RISR)

This report is reviewed twice a year in adherence to the requirements of DNPM (National Department of Mineral Production) Ordinance 70.389/17 from the Brazilian federal government, which allows us to monitor Stability Condition Declarations (DCEs) and better understand the conditions found in structures. This in turn allows us to provide increased quality in our processes for dam monitoring and safety reviews.

Another important change in the monitoring of tailings dams is the inclusion of the Engineer of Record. Previously, the standard was to contract engineering companies to perform biannual audits in order to complete reports based on available information and often a field inspection. EORs are now able to regularly monitor the structure of dams, which allows us to provide RISRs that contain more information and that are more assertive in their findings. Additionally, the EOR accompanies the implementation of recommendations for dams.

Vale’s goal is to achieve positive results for all structures that are assessed. For this reason, we are investing in technology and optimizing factors related to safety at Vale.

Independent Audit

Performed by international companies, these audits are used to issue periodic reports that meet the requirements of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Whenever actions for reinforcement are recommended, monitoring of dam stability is carried out by the same company that performed the audit for a period of a year after work is completed on the dam.

Partner in safety

Vale has implemented the function of an Engineer of Record (EoR) as an additional step towards strengthening its governance. The Engineer of Record is responsible for performing regular safety inspections and issuing monthly technical reports with regards to the situations found at tailings dams. If any changes in safety conditions are found at a structure, a new Declaration of Stability (DCE) can be issued at any moment.

Dam monitoring technology

Vale’s dams are monitored 24 hours per day, seven days a week. High-tech instruments are used to provide precise data, including video cameras that use artificial intelligence, radar capable of detecting movements within a millimeter, inspection drones, piezometers (which measure water pressure), and geophones (sensors used to measure both induced and natural seismic waves).

Structure data is collected in real time and sent to Geotechnical Monitoring Centres (CMG) located in Itabira and Nova Lima in the state of Minas Gerais and Parauapebas in Pará. All information is continuously analyzed by Vale’s technicians. This allows us to verify structure conditions and take preventative and corrective measures quickly and safely.

See what the possible emergency levels are and what they represent:

An emergency situation is considered an adverse event that affects the dam's safety and may cause damage to its structural and operational integrity, to preserve life, health, property and the environment. The emergency situation must be assessed and classified according to the levels below

Level 1

Detailment

When an anomaly is detected that results in the maximum score for the state of conservation or for any other situation with a potential compromise in the safety of the structure, requiring special daily inspections.

Comunication to

the Brazilian National Mining Agency (ANM), ICMM - International Council on Mining and Metals, Environmental agencies and Civil Defense (national, state and city) and the responsible Mining Association & Regulations of the country that the Dam is located.

Immediate Actions

sign instability and intensify monitoring

Vale’s structures

ImmeDayte actions: signaling instability and intensifying monitoring.
Dams: 5-MAC, 5-Mutuca, 6, 7A, B, Borrachudo II, Campo Grande, Dicão Leste, Dique de Pedra, Doutor, Maravilhas II, Marés II, Norte/Laranjeiras, Paracatu, PDE 3, Peneirinha, Pontal, Santana, Sul Inferior, Vargem Grande.

Level 2

Detailment

When the result of the actions taken in the anomaly referred to in Level 1 is classified as “uncontrolled” or “not extinguished”, requiring new special inspections and interventions.

Comunication to

the ANM (Brazilian National Mining Agency), Environmental agencies, Civil Defense (national, state and city), Self-Rescue Zone (ZAS) and Secondary Safety Zone (ZSS), and the responsible Mining Association & Regulations of the country that the Dam is located.

Vale’s structures

ImmeDayte actions: from that level, people in the ZAS are evacuated.
Dams: Área IX, Capitão do Mato, Forquilha I, Forquilha II, Grupo, Xingu.

Level 3

Detailment

Situation of imminent or ongoing rupture.

Comunication to

the ANM (Brazilian National Mining Agency), Environmental agencies, Civil Defense (national, state and city), Self-Rescue Zone (ZAS) and Secondary Safety Zone (ZSS), the responsible Mining Association & Regulations of the country that the Dam is located.

Immediate Actions

Caring is extended to people who are in the Secondary Safety Zone (ZSS), through additional communication and educational measures.

Vale’s structures

ImmeDayte actions: Care is extended to people who are in the ZSS through additional educational measures.
Dams: B3/B4, Forquilha III, Sul Superior.

Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM)

Structures that present a high potential for social, environmental, and cultural damages must possess an Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM). Additionally, dams with an average DPA (Associated Potential Damage) are assessed and, if they are found to possess other characteristics included on the list of criteria, they must also have a PAEBM in place.

The Action Plan is prepared, developed, implemented, and managed in accordance with the the requirements provided for under legislation and protocols from municipalities and the municipal and state Civil Defense.

The action plan established immediate actions that are to be taken in case of an emergency. Its main objective is to plan measures that minimize risks and damages. The PAEBM includes:

  • Flooding areas, in case the dam breaches;

  • Arrival time at each structure;

  • Meeting points and escape route;

  • How to proceed in case the sirens sound;

  • Information on monthly testing and geolocation of the sirens;

  • Important contact numbers in case of emergency.

  • Through technical studies that indicate the path of the tailings in a hypothetical dam rupture, called a flood spot, the PAEBM establishes escape routes and meeting points. Periodically, the ZAS community is oriented and trained on how to act in the event of an emergency.
  • The PAEBM indicates where and how many emergency alert sirens need to be installed in each location, covering all points in the spot area.
  • The sirens undergo tests periodicals, including silent ones. In monthly tests, the sound emitted by the sirens is an instrumental song. Thus, residents can differentiate when it is a test or when the alert is real.

Discover the types of simulations below:

The drills are exercises for preparing and evaluating the protocols and procedures proposed for real emergency situations. Through them, plans, protocols, agreements and procedures are tested and validated, in addition to clarifying roles and responsibilities and identifying opportunities for improvement.

These actions involve several teams, regions and disciplines, with tactical and strategic functions, involved in the response to an emergency situation, such as command posts, monitoring centers and hierarchical scale in decision-making.

The community's participation in the simulations is fundamental for the correct understanding of how to behave in the event of a real emergency situation.

Constant dialogue

All PAEBM actions are discussed with the competent bodies and with the community itself. Professionals explain when there will be simulated emergencies and what measures need to be taken by residents.

Learn more about the Self-Rescue Zones (ZAS) and Secondary Safety Zones (ZSS):

Self-Rescue Zone (ZAS)

All regions in which the competent authorities do not have sufficient time to intervene in emergency situations. A distance is therefore adopted that corresponds to the arrival of a flood wave which is equal to 30 minutes, or 10 km.

Secondary Safety Zone (ZSS)

This is the region located after the 10 km or 30 minutes that constitutes the ZAS. There is sufficient time available in the ZSS for individuals with the proper training to proceed with self-rescue and move towards the established meeting points. We wish to reiterate that, when a level 2 or 3 emergency is determined to be occurring at a dam, the ZAS is evacuated and those individuals in the ZSS are notified of the event.

Innovations

Safety innovations for operations and communities

Vale understands the importance of technology and is therefore investing in new dam monitoring technologies. This is how we are able to provide agility and safety with our initiatives. Learn more about the technologies used by Vale below:

Hover the mouse to learn more about these technologies.

Continuous structure monitoring carried out by teams 24 h per day, with all systems centred upon these individuals safely viewing any situation, allowing for a rapid response. The integrated geotechnical monitoring centres (CMGs) are located in Nova Lima and Itabira Minas Gerais, Parauapebas in Pará, and Corumbá in Mato Grosso do Sul;

The aerial survey of dam structures is a great ally in ensuring safety and a rapid response to emergency situations. Information is gathered through means of helicopter passes performed with an electromagnetic sensor attached to the aircraft.

Development of emergency alert systems as part of Emergency Action Plans for Mining Dams – PAEBMs, such as a system for the automatic engagement of dam sirens. Sensors detect movement in structures and are able to engage sirens automatically in case of movement that exceeds established limits. The automatic engagement of sirens is a procedure that provides increased reliability and rapidity in alerting communities of an emergency situation. This process is automatic and does not depend on human intervention.

Doppler Radar and Tiltmeters, which are equipment using in detecting structure collapse. This equipment is already being used as part of the project for automatic engagement of emergency sirens, when necessary, in accordance with resolution 13/2019 from the National Mining Agency (ANM).

Operations using remote equipment in structures presenting a critical emergency level. This allows, for example, upstream tailings dams such as Sul Superior, in Barão de Cocais and B3/B4 in Nova Lima to be safely decommissioned, removing workers from the field and away from areas of risk.

Technologies that improve the gathering of data and safety with regards to decision making involving structures, such as dam surveillance robots, the use of drones for remote inspection, and expansion of automated instruments that use artificial intelligence.

Deep Drive and Helix AR2 are equipment used to measure seismic waves in tailings dams. Deep Drive is able to reach a depth of 100 m and has its own control cabin. It is engaged in case of emergency. Helix AR2 is a robot that aggregates important solutions for dam decommissioning processes.

You can also explore the main initiatives that are being implemented with regards to reparation and development in areas impacted by the B1 dam collapse in Brumadinho.

Click here to view the Reparation webpage.

Vale is actively seeking out practices that provide a balance with regards to the sustainability of its operations. Initiatives, plans, and targets can all be found at the ESG webpage.

Click here to view detailed information with regards to these practices.

Frequently Asked

Frequently Asked Questions regarding our dams

What is Vale doing to guarantee that its tailings dams are safe?

Vale monitors its dams at its Geotechnical Monitoring Centre 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. The CMG integrates data from instruments located at more than 100 structures, using various sensors and remote monitoring systems that provide real time transmission. In addition, technicians periodically inspect dam structures. We also have a variety of equipment installed at dams that measure different aspects of the structure. Internal and external audits are also performed in which the work of technicians is verified by other individuals both within and outside Vale.

There are also sirens that integrate dam alert systems. In addition to these sirens, we also have a redundant operational system in place, which is part of dam management processes and requires Vale to have infrastructure prepared to support systems in cases of a failure. For example, if an operator fails to engage the siren, it engages automatically through means of an automated system. We have redundant operational phases in place in electrical, telecommunications, network, power, and other systems.

At Vale, we are focused on developing our Tailings Dam Management System in accordance with rigorous international practices and legal requirements. We have also created channels that allow for open and transparent dialogue with members of society, regulatory bodies, and government agencies in order to reinforce safety at our operations.

I keep hearing about the Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM). What are the goals of PAEBM?

Create a culture of prevention within the communities in which we operate, identifying a variety of situations and events that may put the integrity of dam structures at risk. PAEBM also establishes resources and strategies for avoiding or minimizing social, environmental, and economic impacts in a dam collapse scenario.

What are some of the actions taken under PAEBM?

Highlighted measures taken to ensure that PAEBM is correctly executed include:

  • Emergency signaling: in partnership with municipal Civil Defense, signage displaying evacuation routes and meeting points have been installed in Self-Rescue Zones (ZAS) located within municipalities. Evacuation routes are routes that must be followed by individuals in the event of an emergency. Meeting points are locations in which individuals must gather when it is necessary to evacuate an area.
  • Hypothetical dam break simulations provide communities and agents located in Self-Rescue Zones (ZAS) with knowledge of the actions that are to be taken in case of an emergency and training in how to proceed in case of a real-life emergency situation. These simulations are carried out in partnership with municipal and state civil defense and other emergency response organs.
  • Siren tests are part of legal requirements that ensure the proper function of emergency alert systems, verifying that sirens are functioning correctly and meet all necessary requirements. The local population is notified of siren tests in advance and tests are carried out in partnership with municipal Civil Defense. Commissioning consists of the initial test verifying that the emergency alert system is functioning once it has been implemented. After this initial stage, siren tests are carried out monthly at pre-determined dates and times in accordance with schedules that are established together with competent bodies.
  • Training: in addition to simulations held in the community, we also carry out internal training with Vale and third-party employees in order to ensure an appropriate rapid response from all areas involved in an emergency situation.
  • Risk communication: Vale maintains an informative communication system with communities that are located near its operations. The themes that are touched upon in the training include risk scenarios, evacuation routes, meeting points, signage, sirens, and simulations.
Are Vale’s tailings dams governed by any type of legislation?

All of Vale’s dams in Brazil comply with legal requirements provided for under Federal Law 12.334, DNPM Ordinance 70.389, and resolution 51 from the National Mining Agency, as well as Federal Law 14.066 of 2020.

How will I be informed of a real emergency situation involving a dam?

In a real emergency situation, you will hear the siren sound intermittently followed by the following message: “Attention! Attention! This is an emergency. This is a real emergency situation involving a dam collapse. Immediately exit your residences and follow the evacuation route to the meeting point and await further instructions

The technical content on this webpage has been simplified to facilitate the comprehension of the general public.

The PAEBM is to comply with Brazilian legislation and does not apply abroad.

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