In the wake of the Brumadinho dam collapse, which killed at least 169 people so far—with 141 others still missing— the Brazilian government issued a resolution to end so-called “upstream” dams. There are currently 84 of such dams around the country, consisting of embankments, made from tailings, piled on top of one another to create a staircase effect and moving the dam upstream. The method is the cheapest and least secure way of building a dam. The national mining agency (ANM) also wants mining companies to remove facilities from risky areas in no more than six months. After a second mining disaster in three years involving Brazil’s biggest mining company Vale, authorities promise to enforce controls and fulfill their watchdog obligations.
This will have lasting effects on the global iron ore industry—such as tighter controls and the need for more investments in sustainability and safety. “The Brumadinho tragedy affects the entire industry horizontally—not only in Brazil, but also abroad,” says Rafael Benke, a former executive at Vale. “Scrutiny from authorities will increase, with the risk of operating licenses being revoked and processes being changed—which will have a deep impact on cost and investment,” he told newspaper Valor.