Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Untitled 1

Control and Management of Dams

Vale maintains the management of its dams in permanent alignment and updating with the best and strictest international practices.

At the same time, Vale is integrated with social movements and advances in legislation and has contributed in a transparent manner to discussions at various forums, whether technical, legislative or civil society in general.

In addition, Vale has intensified the frequency of monitoring of its structures, as well as inspections to assess their stability, in order to subsidize the taking of preventive and corrective measures in its dams. In February 2019, Vale anticipated the start up of the Geological Monitoring Center, which aims to monitor its dams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to ensure safe and quick decision-making.

Regarding the use of new technologies, Vale is actively working to increase ore recovery in the beneficiation process, reduce tailings generation, to implement new tailings disposal technologies and to improve operational controls and dam safety management. The objective is to invest in initiatives aimed at sustainable mining development, reducing environmental impact and working together with the society in a transparent way to mitigate even more the risks associated with Vale’s operations.

Mineral activity, from its mining and beneficiation processes, generates residue classified as sterile and waste. This residue is currently disposed of in structures called piles and dams, as well as pits, which need special care regarding their safety.

KPI Report

In 2018, Vale generated 689.3 million tons of mining and metallurgical residues.

Mining and metallurgical residues generation

(In million tons)

Total de resíduos minerometalúrgicos Total de resíduos minerometalúrgicos

Financial Indicators

In 2016, Vale invested R$109 million in improvements aimed at management of dams and reinforced its commitment to mitigate the consequences of the Fundão Dam rupture.

In 2017, Vale invested approximately R$ 180 million in maintenance, monitoring, improvement works, audits, risk analysis, revisions of the Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM) and implementation of warning systems, among others.

In 2018, Vale developed new management plans, including the de-characterization of upstream dams with investments totaling R$ 241 million.

  In 2019, approximately R$ 256 million in investments were forecasted, 130% higher than 2016 (R$ 109 million)

Investments in dam management

(In R$ million)

Goals and Time Frames

Vale is committed to continuously increase the efficiency of processes and keep its dam management in permanent alignment with updated international practices whose standards exceed local legal requirements.

Goals

Improve mining dam safety management system
Improve the governance of the dam safety management, implementing the three-line defense model. 

Time Frame: jan/20
Complete the documentation of dams with the delivery of the “AS IS”
Complete the studies with the objective of reporting the current safety condition of the structure. 

Time Frame: jun/20
De-characterization of upstream dams
Legal compliance with state and federal regulations to de-characterize these dams and reinstate them to the environment. 

Time Frame: In accordance with the legislation in force.
Develop projects for alternative tailings disposal methods
Assess initiatives to avoid the construction of new dams or raising the already existing ones. 

Time Frame: Dec/23 (depending on the success of the technology)

Management

Dam management initiatives

Since the dam failure in Brumadinho, analysis processes were intensified in order to support the taking of preventive and corrective actions in all of Vale’s structures, among them:

Safety and Operational Excellence Area reporting to the CEO
Risk management comprises 3 lines of defense
Creation of the Independent Advisory Committee for Extraordinary Advisory Security of Dams (CIAESB) that reports directly to the Board of Directors
Formation of a specific risk committee for geotechnical risks
Additional reinforcement to increase the Safety Factor of the Dam
Implementation of the Geotechnical Monitoring Center (CMG)

Safety and operational excellence are key elements throughout the organization

Safety and Operational Excellence Area reporting to the CEO Business areas and functional units
  • Department led by an Executive Director who defines technical parameters
  • Support the use of standard risk and asset management models by the operational area
  • Focus on standards and procedures
  • Independent and transparent audit
  • Responsible for the management and safety in operations
  • Comply with operational excellence guidelines
  • Asset risk management reports
  • Ensure technical expertise within the operational teams
  • Mandatory VPS (Vale Production System)

Safety and Operational Excellence Area reporting to the CEO

  • Department led by an Executive Director who defines technical parameters
  • Support the use of standard risk and asset management models by the operational area
  • Focus on standards and procedures
  • Independent and transparent audit

Business areas and functional units

  • Responsible for the management and safety in operations
  • Comply with operational excellence guidelines
  • Asset risk management reports
  • Ensure technical expertise within the operational teams
  • Mandatory VPS (Vale Production System)

Tailings dam risk management: Three lines of defense

The 1st Line of Defense is formed by the risk owners and by the process executors of the business, project, support and administrative areas of the company. They are directly responsible for identifying, evaluating, monitoring and managing their risk events in an integrated manner.
The Second Line of Defense corresponds to the areas of occupational safety, risk management, internal controls, standardization, legal compliance and specialist areas, such as operational excellence and asset management, and supervises and supports the work of the 1st line of defense.
The Third Line of Defense comprises areas fully independent from the administration, that is, Internal Audit and Ombudsman's Office, which produces taking into account their respective areas of operation, assessments, inspections, providing exempt validation, including on the effectiveness of risk management, internal controls and compliance.

External Review

Vale conducts reviews by external and independent companies periodically, to certify the dams’ physical and hydraulic safety conditions. These reviews also aim to meet the legal requirements provided in Brazilian standards and agreements signed with agencies, such as the Public Prosecutor – MP and National Mining Agency – ANM. 

Currently, the main reviews are:

Regular Safety Inspection Report - RISR, audit in compliance with legal requirements
Independent audit in compliance with MP’s demand

Regular Safety Inspection Report – RISR

  • In compliance with Federal Law (Norm DNPM 70.389/17).
  • Frequency: two times per year, in March and September.
  • Results: analysis of the stability condition, issuance of the Stability Condition Statement (DCE-Declaração de Condição de Estabilidade).

Vale structured the audit procedure RISR as in the timeline below, which is repeated every six months:

Detailed information on third party companies that perform construction, installation, operation, renovation, expansion and heightening of dams in compliance to article 14 of State Law 23.291/19.

Independent Audit

  • Audits are performed by international independent companies
  • In response to the Public Prosecution Office requirements, sending reports periodically
  • Monitoring of dam stability by the auditing company for 12 months after completing the works of reinforcement, when applicable.

Risks

In the Ferrous area, Vale’s Integrated Risk Management System for geotechnical structures is based on three main pillars: People, Processes and Information Systems.

People pillar:
In the People pillar, specialized teams are dedicated to controlling Vale’s dams, deploying qualified professionals at the operation sites to take care of the structures day-to-day, and at the offices to develop projects, studies and analyses to assure safety and reduce structural risks at the manage units. 

Processes Pillar:
In the Processes Pillar, the company is re-evaluating its procedures in Safety Management, Risk Management and Emergency Management throughout the life cycle of the structure, from design implementation, operation, maintenance and monitoring. In all phases, the prognosis of the risks and the state of our readiness in case of an emergency. Vale's business risk management standard is in the process of being validated. 

Information Systems pillar:
In the Information Systems pillar, the Ferrous area has two systems that support geotechnicians with information for fast and effective decision-making. One of them is Geotec, which stores structural maintenance and monitoring data. The other is Geotechnical Risk Management (CRG, acronym in Portuguese), which stores technical information on the structures and the Dam Safety Plan. 

The Geotechnical Monitoring Center in Nova Lima, Minas Gerais, which was implemented in February 2019, is responsible for monitoring 24 hours, seven days a week to ensure the correct information to support an informed, fast and secure decision-making process. In October 2019, the CMG was implemented in Itabira, Minas Gerais.

Vale invested in new dam monitoring technologies:

Piezometers measuring water level at different points in the dams
Acquisition of new piezometers and inclinometers
Geophones measure dam’s response to seismic activity
Radars ensure fast response and millimetric precision
Satellite and drone imagery to support conservation states and ground displacement
Installation of Sound Alarms
Centro de Monitoramento Geotecnico (CMG)

Emergency Levels at the dams:

Emergency situations are considered those arising from adverse events that affect the dam safety and may cause damage to its structural and operational integrity, preservation of life, health, property and environment. The emergency should be assessed and classified according to the levels below:

Level of Emergency Detailment Comunication
1 Level 1 When an anomaly is detected that results in the maximum conservation status score or any other situation with potential compromise of safety of the structure, which requires special (daily) inspections. National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense.
2Level 2 When the result of actions adopted in the anomaly referred to on level 1 is classified as “not controlled” or “not extinct”, requiring new especial inspections and interventions. National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense, Self-Rescue Zones, Secondary Safety Zone.
3Level 3 Imminent rupture situation or already occurring. National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense, Self-Rescue Zones, Secondary Safety Zone.
Level of emergency
1Level 1

Detailment:
When an anomaly is detected that results in the maximum conservation status score or any other situation with potential compromise of safety of the structure, which requires special (daily) inspections.

Comunication:
National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense.

2Level 2

Detailment:
When the result of actions adopted in the anomaly referred to on level 1 is classified as “not controlled” or “not extinct”, requiring new especial inspections and interventions.

Comunication:
National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense, Self-Rescue Zones, Secondary Safety Zone.

3Level 3

Detailment:
Imminent rupture situation or already occurring.

Comunication:
National Mining Agency, Environmental bodies of the National, State and Municipal Civil Defense, Self-Rescue Zones, Secondary Safety Zone.

Vale’s structures

See Vale’s actions according to the safety level of the dams:

1

Level 1

Indication of instability. Monitoring is intensified.
Dams: Sistema Pontal, Campo Grande, Doutor, Marés 2, Capitão do Mato, Sul Inferior, Dique B, Maravilhas 2, Vargem Grande, VI, Capim Branco, Itabiruçu, Forquilha IV e Santana.

2

Level 2

Evacuation of all the people from the Self-Rescue Zone is required.
Dams: Forquilha II, Grupo.

3

Level 3

Care is extended to people in the Secondary Rescue Zone through additional educational measures.
Dams: Sul Superior, B3/B4, Forquilha I and Forquilha III.

Emergency Management

In case of an occurrence with a dam, all the company’s efforts included in the Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams are immediately implemented. The plan defines immediate actions to be taken in case of emergency in order to minimize loss of life, social, economic and environmental impacts.

In the Brumadinho case, following the occurrence, an Immediate Response group and an Humanitarian Aid Committee were created. All the company's efforts are focused on supporting those affected, working in conjunction with the Fire Department and Civil Defense.

Those efforts include:

  • Immediate assistance and emergency actions
  • Voluntary Financial Support to the affected families
  • Preliminary agreements and emergency indemnifications
  • Support to traditional Communities
  • Hiring of health care professionals
  • Animal Rescue and Care
  • Tailings Retention Measures
  • Environmental Monitoring

Emergency Action Plan for Mining Dams (PAEBM)

In order to deal with the emergency situations described above, Vale uses the PAEBM, which is a technical document that is part of the Dam Safety Plan – PSB and aims to:

  • Minimize the loss of lives, social, economic, and environmental impacts
  • Identify and classify various situations and/or events that may endanger the dam’s structural integrity and establish emergency actions
  • Inform the flow of communication with the many agents involved

The PAEBM is registered in the Town Halls, Local, State and Federal Civil Defense, and in 2020, it will be revised and filed in the environmental institutuions of Minas Gerais.

Content of PAEBM

Community engagement:

  • Carry out drills with communities
  • Partnership with the Civil Defense Agency so that residents living near dams know how to respond to emergencies, registration and activation meetings
  • Sound alarm systems
  • Open channel with the community for questions and clarifications about the PAEBM

Stakeholders involved:

Entrepreneur

Private or governmental agent who uses the dam for their own benefit or collectivity.

Technician in charge

Technician in charge, professionally qualified for project, construction, operation maintenance or monitoring of dams.

PAEBM Coordinator

Agent named by the entrepreneur that is responsible for coordinating the described actions in the PAEBM, being available to act promptly on emergency dam situations.

Dam Safety Team

Professional team responsible for dam safety actions, which may be comprised by professionals from the entrepreneur’s own staff or hired specifically for this purpose.

External agents

Public authorities responsible for inspection, dam safety management and emergency actions.

Geotechnical Monitoring Center

Entrepreneur staff that supervises the dam and carries out the actions previously established in emergency situations.

Population:

ZAS

Self-rescue Zone (ZAS) is the region downstream of the dam where it is considered that here is not enough time for intervention by the competent authorities in an emergency situation. Comprises the region up to 10 km or 30 minutes from the dam's breaking point.

ZSS

Secondary Safety Zone (ZSS) is the constant region of the Flood Map, not defined as ZAS.

Expected Actions Flow - PAEBM:

Decharacterization of upstream structures

On January 29, 2019, Vale decided to accelerate the existing plan for decharacterization of tailings dams built using the upstream heightening method, consisting of 9 dams (8B, B3/B4, Forquilha I, Forquilha II, Forquilha III, Grupo, Sul Superior, Vargem Grande e Fernandinho). Dam 8B was the first uncharacterized structure, concluded in December 2019.

Some of Vale's dams have internal dikes (smaller structures) that were built on tailings (upstream). For this reason, these structures will also be decharacterized.

For some dams it was necessary to elaborate the projects called “As Is” in order to complement the documentation for structures that did not have the project called “As Built” in compliance with Norm 70.389/17. As a result of this process, at the end of the second quarter of 2019, 3 dams (2 Kalunga, 3 Kalunga and Baixo João Pereira) were reclassified as upstream dams, in which 2 will already be concluded in the first half of 2020. Additionally, 2 dams (Doctor and Campo Grande), also had their construction method changed to upstream after conducting technical studies conducted by Vale such as the September/2019 Regular Safety Inspection and the studies called “As Is”, in which further investigations and revisions of the technical characteristics of this structure were done. Thus, Doutor and Campo Grande dams were also included in the decharacterization plan.

Finally, with the publication of Resolution ANM 13/19 in August 2019, the so-called drained stack structures were given the same legal obligations as upstream dams, therefore the drained stack structures were included in the list of structures to be decharacterized.

As part of this process, Vale has provisioned $ 2.0 billion for the decharacterization of upstream dams and other structures.

Read Also

Imagem Brumadinho

Brumadinho

Follow the progress of our reparation efforts

Read more
Imagem Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational Health and Safety

Safety is the cornerstone of operational excellence

Read more