Ecuador tightens rules for mining waste dams

23 July 2020 (Last Updated July 23rd, 2020 12:38)

The Ecuadorian Government has announced that it has introduced new and tighter rules regulating the construction and operation of mining waste dams to avoid disasters similar to the one in Brazil in January last year at a Vale-operated site.

Ecuador tightens rules for mining waste dams
Brumadinho dam collapse disaster claimed lives of at least 270 people. Credit: Ibama.

The Ecuadorian Government has announced that it has introduced new and tighter rules regulating the construction and operation of mining waste dams to avoid disasters similar to the one in Brazil in January last year at a Vale-operated site.

The Brazilian disaster occurred on 25 January 2019 when a dam located near the Córrego do Feijão iron mine collapsed, causing a mudslide to hit the town of Brumadinho.

This disaster claimed the lives of at least 270 people.

Ecuador is exploring options to attract more mining investment in order to transform its oil-dependent economy, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, a small tailings dam associated with a mine run by Ecuador-based firm Austro Gold collapsed.

Outlining the new rules, Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources said in a statement that the country would ban the use of upstream tailings dams.

Following the Vale disaster, the Brazilian Government also banned the construction of new upstream mining dams in February last year.

Ecuador’s ministry gave 18 months to companies to adjust their infrastructure so as to comply with the new regulations.

Large-scale mining started in Ecuador with the inauguration of Canadian miner Lundin Gold’s Fruta del Norte gold mine in November last year.

In May, Ecuador’s National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) issued a favourable opinion for the restart of mining activities in the country, with the approval of the Biosecurity Prevention Protocol for the Mining Sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.