Workers at the largest open cast iron ore mine in the world threatened by Covid-19 outbreak

Workers at the largest open cast iron ore mine in the world threatened by Covid-19 outbreak

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The Brazilian municipality of Parauapebas, in the state of Pará, which houses part of the Serra dos Carajás, where the largest open-cast iron ore mine in the world is located, will carry out mass testing for Covid-19, reaching about half the population.

Cases have soared in the city in recent weeks. As of May 28, 1,900 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the city, alarming global mining markets and the local population.

The municipality, with about 200,000 inhabitants, is the third-largest exporter in Brazil, having shipped the equivalent of 7 billion dollars of iron ore in 2019. Together with Serra Leste – which is in the neighboring municipality of Curionópolis -, the area produced 115 million tons of iron ore in 2019, or about 38% of Vale’s production.

Parauapebas is home to thousands of employees from Vale’s Serra Norte de Carajás operation. The municipality has programmed, in partnership with Vale, a test that could reach about 100,000 people, according to preliminary expectations. The operation will be made possible in a “drive-thru” scheme, starting on May 30th, with daily schedules.

The expectation is to perform around a thousand tests per day. Parauapebas also houses, to a lesser extent, employees from Vale de Serra Leste and the S11D mine (which produced 24% of Vale’s iron ore alone in 2019), in Canaã dos Carajás.

Vale confirmed that it is participating in the partnership for mass testing of the municipality’s population. In a note, the mining company informed that it is carrying out the testing of all its employees and third parties, and removing from the work environment those who have tested positive, even if asymptomatic, as well as all those who may have had contact with the employee who tested positive.

Out of respect for the privacy of its employees, Vale says that it does not disclose test results, nor the number of employees with Covid-19. However, the mining company pointed out that “production had no material impact”.

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