SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian iron ore miner Vale said on Tuesday that it had conducted two planned explosions near its upstream tailings dam whose collapse killed nearly 250 people in January, but only after the dam burst.
“After the burst, as a safety measure, two explosions which had already been planned were carried out, at a distance and with safe loads,” Vale said in a statement, adding their objective had been to eliminate any risk from existing explosives in the mine complex.
On Monday, two workers who were in the area when the dam collapsed five months ago also reported explosions in testimony before a parliamentary investigative committee in the state of Minas Gerais, where the disaster occurred, according to Brazilian government news agency Agencia Brasil.
One of the two workers said the explosion happened around the time the dam collapsed, while a second worker, a Vale employee, testified it only happened roughly an hour after the dam burst, Agencia Brasil said.
Police who are investigating the case have talked to both employees, the agency said. The police said in a statement that controlled explosions took place at Vale’s nearby mine on a daily basis before the dam collapsed, adding they have not ruled out that the blasts may have played a role in the dam burst.
The dam collapse, which unleashed a torrent of toxic mud that engulfed a nearby company cafeteria as well as a bed and breakfast in the area, has triggered a series of investigations into the company and its executives.
(Reporting By Christian Plumb; Editing by Chris Reese)