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Water

Water resources are essential to our activities and we develop programs and implement actions that go beyond compliance with legal requirements to optimize water use and consumption.

Vale is a ICMM (International Mining and Metals Council) member, and utilizes the GRI (Global Report Initiative) methodology to your reports and sustainability reports.

We implement water management practices that provide strong and transparent governance, effective and efficient management in operations and seek to exceed stakeholder expectations in order to promote sustainable water use.

As a guide to our actions, we rely on the Target Water Program, started in 2018, whose main objective is to reduce the abstraction fresh water for use in our production processes. To this end, Vale invests in the expansion of the monitoring network, in reuse initiatives, in the search for new technologies and in the development of studies.

KPIs Report

Water Volume and percentage and water stress level (in millions of m³) 

North America and Europe South America Africa, Asia and Oceania Total
Volume
(million of m³)
% Volume
(million of m³)
% Volume
(million of m³)
% Volume
(million of m³)
%
Total 43.9
77.3
26.6
147.8
Low 43.9
100% 71.7
93% 24.8
94% 140.4
95%
Low to medium 0
0% 0.9
1% 0
0% 0.9
1%
Medium to high 0 0% 4.7
6% 0.1
0% 4.8
3%
High 0 0% 0 0% 1.7
6% 1.7
1%
Extremely High 0 0% 0 0% 0
0% 0
0%

North America and Europe

Volume
(million of m³)
%
Total
43.9
Low
43.9 100%
Low to medium
0 0%
Medium to high
0 0%
High
0 0%
Extremely High
0 0%

South America

Volume
(million of m³)
%
Total
77.3
Low
71.7 93%
Low to medium
0.9 1%
Medium to high
4.7 6%
High
0 0%
Extremely High
0 0%

Africa, Asia and Oceania

Volume
(million of m³)
%
Total
26.6
Low
24.8 94%
Low to medium
0 0%
Medium to high
0.1 0%
High
1.7 6%
Extremely High
0 0%

Total

Volume
(million of m³)
%
Total
147.8
Low
140.4 95%
Low to medium
0.9 1%
Medium to high
4.8 3%
High
1.7 1%
Extremamente alto
0 0%

Distribution of the total volume of fresh water withdrawal by regions according to water risk 

Gráfico Distribuição do volume total de água nova captada por regiões de acordo com risco hídrico - 2018

Hydric balance

(In million of m³)
Gráfico de Captações, Usos e Reutilização e SaídasGráfico de Captações, Usos e Reutilização e Saídas

Performance evolution

The main uses of water in mining are for the ore processing, machinery and parts cleaning, environmental controls, hygiene and human consumption. The methodology that Vale adopts to consolidate the water balance of its operations and disclose its results in the sustainability report considers the following main parts: water collected and used by the operational unit, water collected unused and returned to the environment, water collected and made available to third parties, total volume of reuse and disposal of industrial and domestic effluents.

In 2019, the total volume of water withdrawal for use in our production processes was 149 million m³, 26% less than 2018. Vale maintained the water reuse rate at the 2018 levels, 82%. In its management strategy, Vale understands that this is a way to reduce water collection from the environment

The effluents generated in Vale’s operating units come from industrial uses and human consumption. These effluents are reused in the company's processes whenever possible and, in 2019, 32.8 million m³ were disposed of in the environment, in accordance with the release standards established in local laws.

Total demand

(in millions of m³)

Water withdrawal for Vale’s production processes

(in millions of m³)

Goals and deadlines

The Target Water Program's main objective is to reduce fresh water withdrawal for use in our production processes. The goal is to reduce 10% of specific use for 2017 by 2030 (fresh water withdrawal and used in processes per ton produced), which means lower volume of new water captured for the same production volume.

In addition to the main goal of Target Water, the program also invests in the continuous improvement of water resource management to adhere ICMM’s principles. All of these strategies are aligned with the Structuring Plan, which is the basis of the Target Water program . Thus, among our main commitments related to the water resource management are :

Impact Management

Tailings Retention Measures

Five days after the breach of Dam I, Vale presented to the Public Prosecutor's Office and to environmental agencies a plan for action in three sections along the Paraopeba River, with an emergency-level urgency: Stretch 1 –Up to 10 km from the site of the dam breach: considering the strategic geographic position to optimize tailings containment in the Ferro-Carvão Stream, located downstream of the dam breach and to avoid material input to the Paraopeba River, we plan to construct containment structures, such as rockfill dikes, hydraulic barriers and a metal curtain, as well as to install a Fluvial Water Treatment Plant in the Ferro-Carvão Stream, with the capacity to treat approximately 2 million liters per hour, already in operation.

A 50-meter metal and concrete bridge was built to restore access to the communities of the Parque da Cachoeira and Córrego do Feijão to the central area of Brumadinho. The bridge allows dual-vehicle traffic and includes pedestrian walkways.

Policies and Procedures

Our Sustainability Policy sets out the guidelines and principles for sustainability in our projects and operations, spelling out our commitment to life first and our social, environmental and economic responsibility. The implementation of these principles and guidelines will take place from three dimensions: Sustainable Operator, related to the responsible performance throughout the life cycle of our projects; Local Development Catalyst, focused on collaboration with the socioeconomic and environmental development of the territories where we operate, with the establishment of intersectoral partnerships with the aim of leaving a positive legacy; and Global Sustainability Agent, which forsees our contribution to dialogue and the search for solutions to sustainable development challenges shared by various regions and countries in which we operate.

Imagem ilustrada sobre água

Risks Overview

The Aqueduct tool, developed by the WRI (World Resources Institute), assists us in assessing water stress, which provides a global view of the regions most susceptible to fluvial and coastal flooding, the severity of droughts, the seasonal and interannual water variability, as well as its scarcity. Based on this tool, it is possible to correlate the use of water of our operational units with the degree of risk indicated.



The accuracy of the databases to generate these global assessments has increased substantially in recent years and is continually improving, however, it is necessary to verify and complement these assessments considering the knowledge and perceptions of local operational water risks, their possible impacts and mitigations' actions. In this sense, in 2020 we started applying a water risk sensitivity analysis methodology for each operational unit, that is, the local scale of physical risks and internal technical criteria.

This methodology was applied in 46 operational units considering the following physical risks: floods, conflict over use, supply and droughts. It is noteworthy that an operational unit may be exposed to more than one physical risk and the results of this methodology are presented below, indicating the general result as well as for each of the types of physical risks considered.

Water Risk Sensitivity

 

The process of mapping and managing water risks and impacts is continuous and should refer to the water catchment where we operate and that we have influence. Thus, it is necessary to promote the continuous improvement of our water risk assessment processes with focus on potential physical, regulatory and reputation impacts, climate change interference and the multiple use of water, considering the physical, biotic, economic, social diversity and cultural aspects of the different regions. Once risks are identified and mapped, it is mandatory to establish, monitor and execute action plans prioritizing their mitigation.

Vale's water risk management actions and initiatives has a local and global nature, and involves the review and improvement of governance processes, establishment of new policies, HIRA application and updating of the units' master plans, in addition to alignment with the established principles by ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metal).

Perspectives

In addition to the main goals of Target Water, the program also invests in the continuous improvement of water resource management to adhere to the ICMM’s principles.

In 2018, our main initiatives in this area were defined in the Water Target 2030; mapping of universities to develop R&D projects; analysis of 11 R&D project proposals; establishment of five contracts to improve Water Resources Management at operating units; water resources workshop, integrating operating units at the global level; acquisition of portable ultrasonic flowmeter and verification campaigns at operating units; training of water resources coordinators in operational units; purchase of 413 water monitoring instruments and equipment; water balance reviews at operating units; development of systematic analysis and calculation of quantitative data of water resources; identification of water resources management tool and quality module implementation in five operational units; and consolidation and centralization of grant information in the corporate area.

Imagem ilustrativa para Perspectivas

Dry Processing

Vale invested nearly R$ 66 billion (US$ 17.5 billion¹) over the last 10 years to install and expand the use of the dry process – or natural moisture – of the iron ore produced in its operations in Brazil. By not using water in the process, the dry method does not generate tailings and, therefore, does not use dams.

Dry Processing

Vale Brazil
Gráfico Processamento a seco
Over the next five years, we estimate to apply another R$ 11 billion (US$ 2.5 billion¹) towards similar processing facilities. Today, around 60% of Vale's production is dry and the goal is to reach 70% by 2024. The Serra Leste, treatment plants in Curionópolis and the S11D in Canaã dos Carajás also do not use water to treat the ore.
¹ 2018 Exchange rate

In S11D, for example, using the natural moisture procesing route reduces water consumption by 93% compared to a conventional iron ore production project. The water conserved equals the annual supply for a city of 400,000 inhabitants. In Minas Gerais, dry processing was increased from 20% in 2016 to 32% in 2018. Today, this type of processing is present in several units, such as Brucutu, Alegria, Fábrica Nova, Fazendão, Abóboras, Mutuca, Pico and Fábrica.

In the coming years, the objective is to use dry processing in other locations in Minas Gerais, such as the Apollo and Capanema projects, which are currently under environmental licensing.

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