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Atmospheric Emissions

The main atmospheric emissions for Vale’s business are: particulate matter (PM), sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

These primary pollutants are released into the atmosphere by the stacks of the Pelletizing, Base Metals and Manganese plants, as well as from the burning of fuels in mobile equipment, which can directly influence in the air quality around our operations.

The management of atmospheric emissions at Vale focuses on the sources inventory, which can be stationary or mobile, punctual or diffuse, providing technical information to support the mathematical model that calculates the dispersion plume of pollutants based on criteria from the literature, operational characteristics, as well as meteorological and topographical parameters. In compliance with environmental requirements, we also maintain and operate air quality monitoring networks in some operations and surrounding communities. These initiatives support the adoption of control systems, monitoring plans and emissions management.

The share of contribution of Vale's businesses to these parameters may varies according to operational particularities. Based on the year 2018 (NON-GHG atmospheric emissions target baseline), emissions are distributed as shown in the graph below:


Notes about the graphics above:

  1. NOx and SOx: Fixed sources and fuel consumption considered.
  2. PM: Stationary sources only.
  3. Diffuse sources are not considered, due to lack of measurement methodology
  4. Air quality results, measured outside our operations, are not considered, due to the impossibility of managing contributions from external sources unrelated to our operations.

Vale calculates these emissions using four technical methods, which are briefly described below:

Continuous monitoring: consists of fixed analyzers installed on the side structure of the chimneys, following technical criteria. They are designed to continuously measure the parameters, with qualitative and quantitative data of the gaseous effluent.

Discontinuous monitoring: procedure known as isokinetic sampling, where a sample of known volume is extracted from the gaseous effluent and after laboratory analysis, it is possible to determine the characteristics of the gaseous effluent and determine the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the emitted parameter. This type of monitoring is performed with a frequency defined by the environmental authorities.

Emission factor and fuel sulfur content: calculation of emissions using emission factors, according to equipment characteristics and fuel content, adopting technical and literature references.

Mass balance: consists in quantifying the input, output, accumulation, generation or destruction of the substance of interest, calculating, by difference, its emission to the environment.

Governance through specific technical committees, follow up with the low carbon forums and GHG work groups.

KPI’s Report

Emissions of Particulate Matters

(thousand tons)

SOx Emissions

(thousand tons)

NOx Emissions

(thousand tons)

Note1: The Results of SOx and NOx 2019 and 2020 underwent revision in August 2021, after identification of consumption of new fuels that had not been considered in the calculation. These values will also be updated in the 2021 Integrated Report.

Note2: The results of emission from Fertilizer, New Caledonia, Manganese units, as well as navigation and distribution activities were removed from the baseline of the target according to the disinvestment processes.

Evolution of Vale's emissions performance

Particulate matter (MP)

In 2020, Vale's particulate matter emissions remained at the same level as in 2019. Due to operational issues and increased production, the PTVI unit in Indonesia has contributed to the increase in emissions of this parameter for the base metals business. in the other businesses, there were reductions in emissions of this pollutant due to units shutdowns and reduced production.

Sulphur Oxides(SOx)

Due to the characteristics of the operational processes and fuels used, the base metals business is the main contributor to the emission of this pollutant. The Sudbury and PTVI units are the main emitters. The increase in 2020, compared to the previous year, occurred as a result of operational variables in the Sudbury unit in Canada. The quantification of SOx emissions in this unit is carried out through the mass balance methodology, which is subject to variations in the characteristics of inputs and processes.

Nitrogen Oxides(NOx)

The lower pellet production in 2019 and 2020, in addition with initiatives aimed at railroad efficiency and use of cleaner fuels in 2020, were the main reasons for the NOx emission reduction.


In line with its commitment to improve the sustainability of its business and, with its ambition to lead the transition to low carbon and cleaner mining, Vale has also established targets to reduce its atmospheric emissions of particulate matter (MP), sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)by 2030:

  • Reduce particulate matter emissions by 16%;
  • Reduce emissions of Sulphur Oxides by 16%;
  • Reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 10%;

The targets set have 2018 as the baseyear.

NON-GHG emissions reduction in 2030 – (mt)


After the Brumadinho accident in 2019, there was a reduction in production due to the shutdown of some operations, consequently generating a reduction in emissions in this year and subsequent years. After the gradual return of operations and programs to increase production until 2030, a proportional increase in the emissions curve is expected. With the planned initiatives, we project reductions in NOx, SOx and PM emissions.

Initiatives to achieve 2030 targets

To accomplish this this commitment, several initiatives will be implemented, with emphasis on:

Synergy of PM, NOx and SOx reduction projects with the low carbon strategic planning.

Encouraging specific technological initiatives that contribute to reduce these emissions.

Use of biofuels;

Operational efficiency;

Governance through specific technical committees, follow up with the low carbon forums and GHG work groups.

Risk and Impact management

Vale seeks to reduce diffuse emissions by adopting a range of controls such as improving sprinkler systems, testing dust suppressor products, improving management processes, among others.

In addition, the monitoring of emissions and air quality has been upgraded to automatic and continuous systems, aiming at better management and fast reaction in case of deviations.

We also maintain a policy of improving operational processes and reducing fuel consumption.

Business Case

PET Recycling

In partnership with the Espírito Santo Federal University (UFES in portuguese), Vale developed and patented a biodegradable dust suppressor resin produced by a chemically recycling PET. The product has a characteristic sealant that maintains moisture in stockpiled material, railroad wagons and unpaved roads. This initiative and technology will help Vale to reduce its particulate matter emissions, improving air quality in surrounding communities, in addition to foment plastic waste recycling, making businesses more sustainable.

Vale installs mist cannons at Tubarão

In 2018, was signed a new Environmental Commitment Term (TCA in Portuguese) to reduce particulate matter emissions at Tubarão operational unit in Vitória (ES). The term signature involved the Federal Public Ministry, State Public Ministry, State Secretariat for the Environment and State Environmental Institute and aims to ensure transparency in implementing all initiatives presented by the Environmental Master Plan.

Clean AER Project in Sudbury, Canada

At our Sudbury unit in Canada, Vale completed the Clean AER Project, in which a total of US$ 1 billion has been invested since 2012. The project reduced 85% of SOx emissions from the foundry at Copper Cliff. In addition, the project will also reduce our smelter's greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

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