Global Mining: Vale output expects record levels despite dam disaster

Vales follows fate of Iron ore
Vale follows fate of iron ore

Vale SA’s relentless expansion is expected to keep the world’s biggest iron-ore miner near record output levels despite the hobbling effects of last year’sSamarco dam burst on its Brazilian operations.

The Rio de Janeiro-based miner will report second-quarter output of 86-million metric tons, including third-party purchases, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with a second-quarter record of 89.3-million a year earlier, and 77.5-million in the first quarter, when Vale’s production is typically lower.

The numbers don’t include production from Vale’s Samarco Mineracao SA joint venture. That mine in southeastern Brazil, co-owned by Melbourne-based BHP Billiton, was shut in November after a tailings dam burst, killing as many as 19 people, polluting nearby waterways and confronting the companies with potentially billions of dollars in damages.

Vale has warned that the overall performance of its Marianamining hub in southeastern Brazil was suffering as a result of the accident that’s been widely called the country’s worstenvironmental disaster. The miner said in its first-quarter production report that the Samarco closure had reduced output in the rest of the regional hub by 48% compared with a year earlier.

“Samarco’s closure indirectly caused the shutdown of some of Vale’s other operations that are close to the mine,” Glauco Legat, an analyst at GBM Research in Santiago, said in a telephone interview. “The company is increasing production in the northern system but it should still report lower numbers than last year’s second quarter, when considering the impact of these interruptions.”

Vale’s relatively lower second-quarter production doesn’t necessarily signal a slowdown as Brazil on the whole shipped 5.7 percent more of the steelmaking ingredient in the first of half of this year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Vale has been sticking with a strategy of expanding into a supply glut to gain market share from higher-cost producers. The company has benefited as prices rallied 29% this year, bolstering profits after last year’s commodities rout. Ore with 62% content delivered to Qingdao surpassed $70 a ton in April, but has since receded, closing at about $56 a ton on Tuesday, according to Metal Bulletin data.


Vale’s two main rivals, Rio Tinto Group and BHP, also had been increasing output. Rio, which boasts the world’s lowest-cost supply, increased second-quarter production by 7% to 85.3-million tons, the London-based company said Tuesday. BHP said Wednesday its output in the same three months declined 7% to about 56-million tons from a year earlier after the start-up of a railway maintenance program at its West Australian operations.

In Vale’s first-quarter report, it said it was on pace to hit the lower end of its 340 million to 350 million ton output guidance for the year. The company plans to ramp up production at its S11D mine in Carajas, the industry’s biggest development project, while also considering selling off stakes in its core assets.

In June, sources said Vale was in talks to sell stakes in itsiron-ore assets as the company attempts to raise about $10 billion through next year to reduce debt.

Vale is scheduled to release production numbers before regular trading begins Thursday in Sao Paulo and post its second-quarter earnings report on July 28. (source: Bloomberg)

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