Brazil – The BHP Billiton/Vale iron ore JV Samarco has reallocated 136 families/569 people following the collapse of its tailings dam, Fundão, in Minas Gerais, Brazil on Thursday, 5 November 2015.
Details are still emerging in relation to the Samarco employees and contractors impacted by the incident. At this stage, Samarco has advised that there is at least one confirmed fatality with a further 13 members of the workforce missing.
The number of people in the communities impacted by the incident is yet to be confirmed, but the local authorities have reported that, at this stage there are at least 15 people from the communities unaccounted for.
The Samarco operations include a three tiered tailings dam complex. Within this complex, the Fundão dam failed, affecting the downstream Santarém dam. This resulted in a significant release of mine tailings, flooding the community of Bento Rodrigues and impacting other communities downstream.
The third dam in the complex, the Germano dam, is being monitored by Samarco. At this time, there is no confirmation of the causes of the tailings release.
The Samarco operation in Brazil has an annual production capacity of more than 30.5 Mt of iron ore pellets and to process 32 Mtpa of concentrate. In the 2015 financial year, BHP Billiton’s share of production was 14.5 Mt and the contribution from Samarco was approximately 3% of the BHP Billiton Group’s underlying EBIT.
Samarco notes that the waste is inert. It consists mostly by silica (sand) from the iron ore processing and presents no chemical that is harmful to health.
On Sunday, the BHP Billiton board of directors extended its deepest sympathies to all who have been affected by the tragic events at the Samarco iron ore operation.
The board emphasised the company would continue to provide Samarco with all the assistance necessary to support the response effort.
“Words cannot describe the impact of this tragedy on the employees and contractors of Samarco, their families and the community,” said BHP Billiton Chairman, Jac Nasser. “Our thoughts are with the people of Samarco, the affected community and with the people of Brazil.”
BHP Billiton has extended immediate support to Samarco and continues to work closely with Vale.
BHP Billiton CEO, Andrew Mackenzie, will visit the incident site this week to meet with the Samarco response team, authorities and members of the community to understand first-hand the human, environmental and operational effects of the incident.
“Our first priority is to assist Samarco in safely and effectively responding to this terrible tragedy,” Mackenzie said. “BHP Billiton employees have been deeply affected by this tragic event and Samarco has our full support as it continues with the response effort.”