BHP commits $44 million to restart operations at the Samarco Mine

November 1, 2019

Four years after two tailings dam collapsed at the Samarco Mine in Brazil, BHP has approved $44 million for the restart of operations at an iron ore mine.

The tailings dam failure left 19 people dead in the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history. BHP, which controlled the project along with Vale, said the $44 million will be used for construction of a filtration plant over the next 12 months, after which the Samarco-operated mine could restart.

The Financial Times reported that environmental authorities in Minas Gerais, Brazil granted a license for Samarco to restart operations.
The mine is set to start in late 2020 with a capacity to produce between 7 Mt to 8 Mt/a (7.7 to 8.8 million stpy) of iron ore pellets.

“Samarco has now obtained all environmental licenses required to progress towards operational restart,” BHP said. “Restart can occur when the filtration system is complete and Samarco has met all necessary safety requirements, and will be subject to final approval by Samarco’s shareholders.”

BHP and Brazilian miner Vale each hold a 50 percent of the mine’s operator Samarco.

At the time of the 2015 disaster, Samarco produced about 30 Mt/a (33 million stpy) of iron ore pellets.

The failure of the dams flooded the surrounding area with mud and destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues.

Samarco said at the time that two of four dams had burst at its Germano unit in the municipalities of Ouro Preto and Mariana.

In January this year a tailings dam belonging to Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, collapsed in one of the biggest disasters in mining. A total of 251 people died when a storage dam near the town of Brumadinho burst in the second fatal mining catastrophe in the Minas Gerais state in four years.

That disaster triggered a criminal investigation, amid claims that Vale had been warned about the fragile state of the structure yet did nothing.

Photo: Construction of a new dam wall and water decant tower, credit, BHP.



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