February 17, 2019 / 12:33 PM / 2 months ago

Miner Vale evacuates 200 people near Brazilian dam on fears of instability

A view of the entrance of the B3/B4 Mar Azul mine operated by Vale SA that was evacuated, in Nova Lima, Brazil February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Cristiane Mattos

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Around 200 residents were evacuated from an area near a tailings dam in Brazil operated by Vale SA late on Saturday, amid fears that it was structurally weak and could burst like a similar barrier failure last month that killed 300 people.

Vale said in a statement that it had evacuated people living near the inactive B3/B4 dam of the Mar Azul mine about 25 kilometers south of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, after revising security data on the structure.

Those forced to flee were taken to a community center and would then be put in hotels, the company said.

The evacuation comes little more than a week after two communities located close to nearby dams were forced to leave their homes on similar fears of dam failures.

The collapse last month of a separate Vale dam in the same area unleashed an avalanche of mud that engulfed nearby buildings and farms, killing an estimated 300 people in Brazil’s deadliest mining disaster.

As evidence mounted that Vale missed warnings of trouble at the dam in the town of Brumadinho, pressure has risen on the firm and other mining companies to bolster safety measures to avoid a recurrence.

Another dam, also used to store the muddy mining detritus known as tailings and co-owned by Vale and BHP Group, had collapsed in 2015, killing 19 people and wreaking massive environmental damage.

Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Marta Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Susan Fenton

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