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Brazil's Vale signs deal with authorities on COVID-19 monitoring at Itabira mines

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By Sabrina Valle

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA has signed an agreement on monitoring for possible coronavirus cases at its Itabira complex, a major iron ore production facility temporarily shuttered earlier this month out of health concerns, authorities said on Thursday.

A number of sanitary measures including testing all workers every 21 days were agreed with labor prosecutors in Minas Gerais state and with a local court, the authorities said, adding that Vale now had 15 days to draw up the details of a virus mitigation plan. Prosecutors will use reports the company has agreed to produce regularly to decide on possible new actions at the complex, where changes in production levels can potentially affect iron ore prices internationally.

The Itabira complex produced almost 36 million tonnes of iron ore in 2019, according to Vale, out of the company's total production of roughly 302 million tonnes. Vale reopened the mines after a coronavirus-induced lockdown on June 17, without changes in its annual production guidance. But scrutiny over the mines remains, as the death toll in Minas Gerais grows. Brazil has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases globally after the United States. Lawmakers were reported to be seeking to reverse the government's declaration that mining is an "essential industry," UBS analysts said in a note, citing a report by BNamericas.

"We think the risk of a Minas Gerais lockdown and, in turn, the risk to Vale's production guidance remains high," Andreas Bokkenheuser said in a June 24 note to clients. (Reporting by Sabrina Valle; Editing by Tom Brown)
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