Frequently asked questions
About the accident
Has Vale deposited tailings from its mines above the Campo Grande dam's capacity?
No. Conforming Emergency Action Plan Document Mining Dam (PAEBM), filed with the competent organs, its design capacity is 23.5 Mm3 and currently, the dam occupies a 19.59 Mm3 volume. Therefore, the Campo Grande dam is not saturated.
What amount of waste from its mines has been deposited by Vale in Samarco dams?
In 2014 and 2015, Vale sent an annual average of 700,000 m³ of fine tailings to Samarco’s pond. This represented approximately 5% of the total volume deposited there. Considering the three-year period from 2013 to 2015, the percentage was also around 5%. Before this period, the pond was less than 50% full.
If we compare the volume of tailings against the height of the dam, Vale’s waste materials stood no more than 3.06 m in a dam 105 m high, while, i.e. 2.9% of the dam’s height.
What was the results of the independent investigation into the accident at Samarco’s Fundão dam?
The investigation was conducted by law firm Clearly Gottlieb, which formed a panel of four of the best geotechnical experts in the world. Norbert Morgenstern, the leader of the panel, has worked on more than 140 dam projects and has more than 330 academic papers published on the subject.
The specialists assessed the technical aspects that caused the dam to fail and conducted extensive tests. Throughout the investigation, the company had unconditional access to all Samarco’s documents, and to documents related to its employees and facilities.
The technical assessment included, among other aspects, the building of a 3D computer model of the tailings facility showing movement over time; an in-depth analysis of tailings deposited in the Fundão dam to understand their properties and behaviors; an overtime analysis of the saturation levels of the dam and the water running by it; and tests to understand the role seismic activity could have had in the structure’s collapse.
The waste transfer to Samarco is licensed?
The waste transfer activity for Samarco is licensed since 1994 for the Corrective Operational License of Alegria Mine, COPAM process number 182/87/03/94. This license has been subjected to successive revalidation, as required by current environmental legislation in Minas Gerais. Licences are issued by COPAM (State Environmental Policy Council of the State of Minas Gerais). In this environmental license, was expected that Vale could waste on new Samarco’s structures that were to be built. The responsibility for licensing for the disposal of waste in the Fundão Dam is Samarco’s.
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Is the waste from the dams toxic?
No. The waste at the dam sites is inert, it has no toxic components. It is mainly composed of silica (sand) from the iron ore processing and contains no chemicals that pose a risk to health. The results of the analyzes requested by Samarco to SGSGeosol Laboratórios, specialized in environmental and geochemical analyzes of soil, attests that the waste from the Fundão dam offers no harm to people or the environment. Samples were collected on November 8th near Bento Rodrigues, Monsenhor Horta, Pedras, Barretos and Barra Longa, in the state of Minas Gerais, and were analyzed according to the Brazilian standard NBR 10004:2004. These sites have been identified for collection for being the closest to the accident, and therefore the samples represent the best material deposited in the dam. After the analyzes, the waste at these sites has been classified as non-hazardous. This means that the analyzed material presents no harm to people and the environment, considering that it provides no contaminants to water, even in rain exposure conditions.
Has Vale taken any steps involving its dams following the occurrence in Mariana? What measures have been taken?
Vale carried out a detailed inspection of the structural conditions of all its tailings dams. No alterations were detected. The following components were checked: access roads, tailings ponds, crests, berms, slopes, surface drainage, internal drainage systems, abutments and overflow systems. Eighteen geotechnics professionals from Vale’s ferrous minerals area, as well as a number of office teams, have been working on an emergency basis, contributing to the speed of the inspections’ results.
How are the dams monitored?
Our dams undergo visual inspections and are monitored using instruments that provide responses regarding their structural behaviour. The monitoring data is analyzed by geotechnical engineers, who frequently evaluate whether instrument readings are compatible with the structures’ normal operating conditions.
What dam monitoring standards are followed, and what do they involve?
When developing designs for dams, Vale complies with the criteria of standard NBR 13028, as well as the design guidelines of renowned international organizations, such as the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD). During the dam operating period, Vale complies with state and federal laws. In Brazil, Law 12,334 of 2010 establishes the National Dam Safety Policy, and National Mineral Production Department (DNPM) ordinances 416/2012 and 526/2013 govern Dam Safety Plans (PSBs) and Tailings Dam Emergency Action Plans (PAEBMs), respectively. In Minas Gerais, Vale complies with regulatory rulings 62/2002 and 87/2005, which govern dam classification criteria, as well as safety management requirements.
What is being done to preserve the Doce River?
The river’s turbity is monitored daily in 22 points set by IBAMA. In total, more than 500,000 analyzes performed, generating 25,000 reports. Current results indicate that the river’s water quality is similar to the patterns observed in 2010, as indicated in the December report by the Brazilian Geological Service (CPRM) and the National Water Agency (ANA).
The water quality i salso monitored at 113 points along the Doce River (84) and in the marine areas near the river mouth (29), and the plume by means of overflights 3 times a week.
What is the current state of Doce River’s water?
Based on data obtained from the 84 monitoring points and particularly the reports by the National Waters Authority (acronym ANA in Portuguese), the Brazilian Geological Service (CPRM) and the National Environmental Council (Conama), conditions in the Rio Doce are currently much the same as they were prior to the breach of the Fundao dam. The turbidity readings taken in April corroborate the quality of the water, with values below 100 NTU.
Results obtained from university analyses also show that there has been no change in the quality of fish and crustaceans. The studies were based on samples of fish, prawns and oysters collected at six fishing stations in the Doce estuary and the nearby ocean region between December 2015 and February 2016. In March, a second expedition, equipped with sonar, that covered the full extent of the river, continued to observe and map the presence of marine fauna in the watercourse in much the same way as the initial expedition in December 2015.
What establishes the agreement signed by Samarco, Vale e BHP Billiton with the Union and the governments of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo?
The agreement, signed on March 2, provides the social, environmental and economic recovery of the regions affected by the burst of the Fundão dam.
- The agreement foresees the creation of a private foundation that will be responsible for implementing about 40 repair programs.
- The programs will be gathered into two main work fronts, being one socio-economic and the other socio-environmental.
- The Foundation will be maintained with funds from Samarco and it should be established within 120 days. During this period, Samarco will continue applying all emergency actions for the social and environmental recovery that has been taking since the first day of the accident.
- All projects will be followed by the affected populations.There will be external audits and an ombudsman will be created to serve the community.
What is the role of the Renova Foundation
Renova Foundation started its operations on August 2nd, as provided in the agreement signed by Samarco, its shareholders, Vale and BHP Billiton, and public agencies,. The entity takes on all repair activities previously conducted by Samarco and its shareholders.
A private, non-profit entity, the Foundation received the name "Renova" in line with its goal to repair, restore and rebuild the impacts caused by Fundão dam break. It will be responsible for 41 environmental and socioeconomic programs under the Agreement, and its headquarters will be in Belo Horizonte.
What does the Renova Foundation brand mean?
The brand is simple and dynamic: the small letters in the logo represent the foundation’s humility, because that is how it is going to work, and the capital letters represent the strength it must have. The three parts represent team work - communities, companies and the government - and the three colors represent the river water, the forest and the earth.
How is the financial management of the Foundation?
Samarco will transfer R$ 4.4 billion to the Foundation, in the first three years, to fund the projects. From 2019, the company’s annual contribution will be defined according to the forecast of annual implementation of the projects. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the annual values for these contributions will be between R $ 800 million and R $ 1.6 billion. Besides that, it has been defined that R$ 240 million will be applied per year for compensatory actions in the next 15 years, from 2016. These annual values for compensatory actions are already included in the total of the first six years mentioned above. Another R$ 500 million will be made available by the company for projects of sanitation, which will be performed by the City Halls impacted, until the end of 2018.
How does the management of Renova Foundation work
The Board of Governors of the Renova Foundation is chaired by Wilson Nélio Brumer, a business administrator who, among other activities, has held the position of chairman of the Board of Directors of VALE, Acesita, BHP Billiton, CEMIG and Codemig, of executive president of Usiminas, and of State Secretary of Economic Development of Minas Gerais (2003-2007). The Board of Governors is responsible for developing annual and multiannual plans, budgets and contracts, as well as for approving the plans, programs and projects executed by the Foundation.
The Renova Foundation will also have an Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from the impacted communities, from teaching and research institutions, as well as members appointed by the Doce River Hydrographic Basin Committee (CBH-Doce), by the Interfederative Committee, among other entities. The Advisory Committee will function as an assistive body, opining on plans, programs and proposed solutions regarding the damage caused by the dam collapse.
The participation of different sectors of civil society is also ensured by the Interfederative Committee, which serves as an external and independent body of the Foundation, performing follow-ups, monitoring and supervision of the executed projects. In addition, it counts on the support of technical experts and independent auditors to add transparency to its operations. It also has, as members, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, of the Federal Government, of the state governments of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, of the impacted municipalities, of the Doce River Basin Hydrographic Committee and of the Federal Public Defender’s Office. In addition, it will receive the support of technical experts and independent auditors to assure the transparency of its actions.
What is the Mediated Compensation?
The initiative aims to compensate people directly affected by the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam, owned by Samarco Mineração S.A., in Mariana (MG). The program will reimburse those affected in a transparent, fair and just way, enabling faster results for impacted people without the procedures and costs of a lawsuit.
The initiative agrees with the Transaction and Conduct Modification Agreement, signed in March 2016, which established the Renova Foundation as an organization responsible for repair programs in the affected regions.
Compensations will be defined through mediation sessions with a representative of Renova Foundation; with the affected person, who may be legally assisted by a public defender or his/her attorney, if he/she wishes; and a neutral, impartial and independent mediator. The Mediated Compensation Program will have offices throughout the region directly affected by the collapse, called Mediated Compensation Centers.
How can I receive news about the recovery actions?
For the latest news on the actions taken by the Renova Foundation, you can access this section on
Vale.com or at the official website of the foundation www.fundacaorenova.org/en/
Renova Foundation also offers a weekly digital newsletter. The newsletter brings news about the recovery actions taken by Renova, the main challenges found, the guidelines followed, and the results obtained. As the name implies, the purpose of the "Connect" is to facilitate the connection between the institution and society.