Trains, tides and tonnes: Vale leads Brazil's iron ore expansion
By Gustavo Bonato
SAO LUIS, Brazil, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Two kilometers out to sea, workers battle treacherous currents to build a huge dock capable of loading the largest iron ore ships on earth, a vital step as Brazil's Vale fights for dominance in a tumbling market.
The work in the northeastern city of Sao Luis is a small part of an iron ore project that stretches 1,000 kilometers from the Amazon rainforest in Para to the Atlantic coast and costs almost twice as much as the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
The mammoth undertaking will secure Vale SA as the world's number one producer of the main raw material in steel making. In a cut-throat market where prices have halved since last year, it will reduce costs as well.
With a name like a space project, S11D will be delivered in the second half of next year.
The $17 billion price tag has scared some investors, who point to the pressure on Vale's balance sheet as earnings fall. Analysts also express concern its iron ore will sink a market already oversupplied by mega mines delivered by Australian rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
But workers here shrug at the idea the project could be slowed in order to balance the market.
"We are following a very mature plan. There has been no order to speed up or slow down," said Adriano Mansk, who is responsible for the port work and showed Reuters around the site.
Chief Executive Murilo Ferreira, who was making a personal visit the same week, believes Vale's future hangs on S11D. It is "untouchable", he has told analysts. Continuación...