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By Leonardo Goy
BRASILIA, Nov 10 (Reuters) - A new mining code being proposed in Brazil will include stricter regulations for tailings pond dams and could make dry processing of iron ore obligatory for miners, the bill's reviewer, Congressman Leonardo Quintão, told Reuters on Tuesday.
At least four people died and 22 are still missing five days after the collapse of two tailings ponds released a torrent of waste water from an iron ore mine operated by Samarco, a joint venture between BHP Billiton Ltd and Vale SA .
Neither authorities nor Samarco have determined a cause for the rupture of tailings retaining dam.
But the disaster has led to angry calls for tighter environmental safeguards and speeding up passage of the mining code that has been sitting in Congress for years. Under this pressure, lawmakers are adding the proposals for tailings ponds and dry tailings to an existing bill focuses on raising royalties levied on miners.
Quintão said dry processing should replace wet processing of ores that requires tailings ponds for the mineral waste and water used in the process.
"The technology exists and it is not more expensive," the lawmaker said in a telephone interview. He said the code could establish a five-to-ten year transition period for mining companies to move to dry processing.
The bill stuck is at committee level in the lower house of Congress and, if approved, would still need to be debated and voted in the Senate.
Senator Delcidio Amaral, an influential politician in the ruling Workers' Party, told Reuters over the weekend that the disaster could accelerate a vote on the mining code and lead lawmakers to include stricter regulations for mines.
Reporting by Leonardo Goy; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alden Bentley