In response to the rupture of the tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Joint Resolution SEMAD/FEAM No. 2.765 (hereinafter, "the Resolution") was published on January 30, 2019 in Minas Gerais's Official Gazette. The Resolution de-characterizes all upstream tailings dams, which are used in mining operations, in the state of Minas Gerais.

Article 2, Section III, of the Resolution defines "de-characterization" as the process by which a dam is separated from its primary purpose of retaining waste (tailings) and is destined for another purpose.

Article 2, Section V, clarifies that only the tailings dams that use the upstream method— discharging tailings from the top of the dam crest, creating a beach that becomes the foundation for future embankment raises—are subject to the new rules. Currently, 50 tailings dams in Minas Gerais use this method—27 are in operation and 23 are paralyzed. 

According to Article 3, the dam operators who are responsible for the paralyzed dams must submit to the State Environmental Foundation ("FEAM") the project and work plan for de-characterizing the dam, as well as the de-characterization schedule, including deadlines and actions to achieve complete de-characterization.

The deadline for submitting the documents is 180 days from when the experts committee provided for in Article 5 publishes a document stipulating the minimum content of the work plan and the maximum term for the de-characterization.

Aimed at the operators responsible for the dams that are still in operation, Article 4 requires that these dams migrate to using other technology, with the intention of de-characterizing the dam.

These operators must submit to FEAM, within 360 days after the publication of the Resolution, a description of the technology to be adopted and a work plan containing the implementation schedule. Under Article 4, Paragraph 2, the operator has up to two years, from the presentation of the work plan, to adopt the new technology.

Finally, it should be stressed that all information, schedules and plans must be submitted to the competent federal agency, in view of the obligations set forth in Federal Law No. 12344/2010, which establishes the National Dams Safety Policy, and that the Resolution does not exempt the operators from fulfilling other obligations imposed by the federal law.

Originally published February 27 2019

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