BHP close to restarting work at Brazilian mine where 19 died


Anglo-Australian miner BHP is close to restarting work at a Brazilian mine where an accident in 2015 killed 19 people.

Samarco Mineracao, a company owned by BHP and Brazilian miner Vale, has met licensing requirements to restart operations.

It aims to produce around eight million tonnes of iron ore pellets every year from the Germano mine, and its Ubu complex.

It is more than five years since a dam used to store liquid mining waste at Germano ruptured, spilling its toxic contents and flooding the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues.

In total, 19 people are thought to have been killed and several injured in what was called the Mariana disaster after the name of the mining complex. The impact on local wildlife is also thought to be significant.

The waste entered a local river and is believed to have killed significant fish stocks, while much local rainforest was also impacted.

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

It added: “The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation (Renova) to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundao dam in 2015 continues, and BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda continues to support Renova in its work.”

Renova had spent 10.7 billion real (£1.5 billion) by November this year on remediation and compensation programmes. Around 325,000 people have received around 3.1 billion real in indemnities and emergency financial aid.

In January 2019, another dam burst in Brazil at a mine run by Vale – BHP’s partner in Samarco.

The Brumadinho disaster, as it would be known, proved even more devastating than Mariana.

About 270 people are thought to have died in the spill, although several bodies have never been found.