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BHP Group PLC - BHP restarts mining at site of Samarco dam disaster

The Samarco dam failed in 2015

BHP PLC has restarted operations at the Samarco mine where a tailings dam collapse in 2015 killed 19 people and destroyed a complete village.

In a statement, the FTSE100 group said Samarco, which is jointly owned with Brazilian company Vale, had met the licensing requirements to restart operations at its Germano complex in Minas Gerais and its Ubu complex in Espírito Santo and has commenced iron ore pellet production.

Samarco’s operations were suspended when the Fundão dam failed on 5 November 2015.

That led to what has been described as Brazil’s worst environmental catastrophe with toxic sludge burying the village of Bento Rodrigues and polluting rivers and habitats up to 600miles away.

The companies are facing multiple legal claims in Brazil though a £5bn legal case in the UK on behalf of victims of the catastrophe was struck out in November though might be appealed.

BHP said that it has financially supported extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately BRL 10.7bn (US$2.1bn) on its remediation and compensation programs with BRL 3.1bn (US$620mln) paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people, BHP’s statement said.

Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations, BHP added and Samarco expects initially to produce approximately eight million tonnes of iron ore pellets per annum.

The gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking, said the statement.