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Brazil's Vale reports big slump in 'challenging' year

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Brazilian mining giant Vale said Tuesday its iron-ore production plunged in 2019, calling it "the most challenging year of its history" after a dam collapse at one of its mines killed 270 people.

Vale, the world's largest iron ore producer, said its output of the metal fell to 302 million metric tons last year, down 21.5 percent from 2018.

The company said in a statement it was hit hard by the January 2019 dam collapse at its mine in Brumadinho, in southeastern Brazil, which sent millions of tons of toxic mining waste gushing into the surrounding area.

The disaster was one of the worst industrial accidents in Brazilian history.

Vale said it was forced to shut down production at five other mines after the collapse, aggravating the "operational disruption."

Last month, Brazilian prosecutors charged 16 people, including Vale's ex-president Fabio Schvartsman, with intentional homicide and environmental offenses over the disaster, alleging they hid the risk of a collapse at the dam.

Vale, which owned the dam, and its German auditor TUV SUD also face environmental charges.

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