Brazil regulator suspends operations at two Vale mine complexes

SAO PAULO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Brazil’s mining regulator has ordered Vale SA to suspend activity at its Fabrica and Vargem Grande complexes, the iron ore miner said late on Wednesday, as authorities crack down after last month’s fatal dam break.

In a statement, Vale said the ANM mining regulator ordered the suspension in light of the possible failure of five dams at the mining sites in the interior state of Minas Gerais. In late January, a tailings dam at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao mine failed in the same state, likely killing more than 300 people.

Since then, both authorities and mining companies have stepped up scrutiny of so-called upstream dams, which have been subject to multiple high-profile failures in recent years.

In a statement, Vale said it was abiding by the regulator’s decision but was asking the body for permission to dismantle the dams, while continuing some operations at the mine, “which would bring about limited impacts on production.”

The miner did not offer an estimate on how much production likely would be lost. However, the company had previously planned to maintain operations at Fabrica via dry mining, which eliminates the need for upstream dams. The company estimated that plan would result in 3 million tonnes of lost production in 2019. (Reporting by José Roberto Gomes; Writing by Gram Slattery)