Having informed and discussed the situation with the local authorities, it was agreed that the 200 person community situated downstream to the dam should be evacuated as a precautionary measure.
The action follows an updated site-based assessment commissioned by ArcelorMittal Mining of the tailings dam by the Independent Tailings Review Panel following the recent incidents in the Brazilian mining sector. The assessment included stress tests on the Serra Azul pond applying early observations available from the Feijao dam. Based on the range of factor of safety evaluation, a decision was taken to evacuate all residents while further testing is undertaken and any mitigation measures can be implemented. The historic failure-flow-path when the dam was active was approximately four to five kilometres.
This is a purely precautionary measure and the community is situated 5km from the dam. The company concluded that absolutely no risk can be taken and, despite the obvious disruption to the community, this is the right decision.
The community have been moved into temporary accommodation. They will remain there while further tests are ongoing and until the security of the tailings pond can be 100% guaranteed.
Benjamin Baptista, ArcelorMittal Brazil CEO said, “We apologise to the local community for the disruption; however we know this is the right and indeed only decision that we could take and the authorities agreed. We will endeavour to get people back in their homes as soon as possible although at this point it is not possible to say when that will be. Experts continue to analyse the tailings pond and in the event that measures have to be implemented to further secure the pond that will be carried out as swiftly as possible. We thank the employees and community for their understanding during this difficult time.”
Sebastiao Costa Filho, CEO Mining Brazil said: “Our absolute priority is to ensure our people and our communities are safe. We will be maintaining close communication with those affected to keep them updated about the situation. As soon as we have further information we will make further announcements. I would also like to thank everyone affected – this is clearly a difficult situation and one we hope will be resolved as swiftly as possible.”
The Serra Azul mine is located in Itatiaiuçu, Minas Gerais State, in Brazil. It produces 1.2 million tonnes of concentrate and lump ore. The tailings dam, which is an upstream dam, has been idled since October 2012. It is the only such “upstream” dam in the company’s mining portfolio.