State prosecutors in Brazil have identified cracks in a tailings dam owned by iron ore mining company Vale SA and have asked the firm to hire an independent auditor to look into the matter, a television station reported on Friday night.
The report on Brazil’s TV program “Jornal da Band” said it obtained the documents regarding the B-5 dam from prosecutors in the state of Minas Gerais through a freedom of information request.
The dam is located near the town of Brumadinho, where a Vale tailings dam burst in January, killing hundreds. As a result, the mining-dependent region is on high alert for any possible deficiencies in the hundreds of tailings dams that spot the area.
During an October meeting with prosecutors, Vale declined to commit to an independent audit, the station reported.
The station quoted Vale as saying the cracks “have not been presenting any changes and do not compromise the structure.” The company also said three separate firms are already attending to the security of the B-5 dam.
In comments to Jornal da Band, the company added that the cracks were superficial, presented no risk to the dam’s integrity and had been self-reported to the nation’s mining regulator.
“Currently, (the dam’s) security level is appropriate as attested to by the most recent regular inspection, carried out by an independent company in August 2019, which confirmed the stability of the structure,” Vale said in an email to Reuters.
The dam, located at Vale’s Mutuca mine, is responsible for the containment of about 11 million cubic meters of tailings waste, similar to the amount of waste that was released at Brumadinho, Jornal da Band said. It said 93 people lived in an immediate danger zone downstream of the B-5 dam.