September 15, 2017 / 1:51 AM / a year ago

Brazil's Vale vows to appeal court decision halting nickel mine

SAO PAULO, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Vale said on Thursday it will appeal a court decision forcing the Brazilian miner to halt operations at Amazonian nickel mine Onça Puma until it takes measures benefiting a local indigenous community.

Following a trial on Wednesday, the lead judge in a federal court said studies showed metal concentration in a nearby river above permitted levels and said the company has not presented plans to help affected indigenous communities.

The studies “demonstrate the indigenous people are suffering directly the effects of the company’s actions,” the judge wrote.

The court said mining at the unit should remain suspended until Vale implements an economic and environmental management plan and other measures to benefit communities, including giving a salary to each member of the village affected by the project.

In its defense, Vale said elements found in the nearby river were naturally occurring and preceded the project, adding that there was no relationship between them and any alleged health problems.

Vale, the world’s top nickel producer, also said it pays 13 million reais a year to the local Xikrin indigenous community, contributing to its development, and that it is open to dialogue with the federal prosecutor’s office, which had filed suit.

Inaugurated in 2011, Onça Puma is located in Para State. It produced just 24,100 tons of nickel in 2016, out of Vale’s total 311,000 tons output of the metal last year.

In August, 2015, a federal court suspended activities at the mine over disputed payments to indigenous communities.

In 2015, a tailings dam run by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, collapsed, killing 19 people in Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster. (Reporting by Luciano Costa and Roberto Samora; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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