RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA VALE3.SA will place caution before capacity as it seeks to avoid driving down the iron ore market and presses forward with its recovery from a deadly dam break in 2019.
"We are going to be responsible and we are not going to overflow the markets with iron ore," Chief Financial Officer Luciano Siani said in an interview as part of the Reuters Commodity Trading Summit here.
The miner is prepared to raise its capacity using safer and less polluting methods to 450 million tonnes in about five years, he said - almost 50% more than forecast production for 2020. But it may not use full capacity if an expected surge in manufacturing-driven Asian demand fails to materialize.
“The intent is not to oversupply the markets towards 450 (million tonnes). It is to have the capacity available to meet the market if the need be,” Siani said.
Vale’s production decisions affect prices of products made of steel around the world, as it is the only global iron ore miner with sizeable plans to expand capacity.
Its path to growth includes new mines in northern Brazil, as well as reviving production at some of its older mines in the country’s traditional mining heartland of Minas Gerais.
The miner momentarily recovered its status as top global producer in the third quarter, after raising output slightly above its Australian competitor Rio Tinto PLC RIO.L.
Rio Tinto overtook Vale after a dam burst in Brumadinho city in early 2019 left 270 people dead and obliged Vale to shutter other risky dams holding mining waste.
“Everyone understands that the big swing factor in supply is Vale,” Siani said. “The good news is that the capacity is here, the mines are here, the processing plants are here, the railways are here.”
Though Vale reported losses last year following expenses related to the Brumadinho disaster, revenue continued to rise. A reduction in world supply after Vale shaved around a quarter from its production target for 2019 helped to fuel a surge in iron ore prices, which hit a six-year high in mid-September.
The company, which has expressed desire to eventually neutralize its indirect greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to announce its first targets for “scope 3” - which refers to emissions anywhere upstream or downstream the supply chain - as soon as next month.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets will be key for Vale’s effort to recover credibility with investors, Siani said. By the time it reaches 400 million tonnes in about two years, the company expects to be a benchmark in safety and eliminate the share discount over its peers, he added.
“ESG plays a big part of what Vale intends to be in three years time, it is not all about production.”
Reporting by Sabrina Valle; editing by Barbara Lewis, Christian Plumb and Marguerita Choy
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