International – As an immediate step following the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam, in Minas Gerais, Brazil last week, the BHP Billiton and Vale iron ore JV, Samarco, has pledged to support the affected community by creating an emergency fund.

The emergency fund, which will become functional as soon as practicable, will be used for rebuilding works and to help the affected families and communities.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie and Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira said their immediate priority is to understand the full extent of the consequences of the tailings dam breach and how they can provide further help.

Together with BHP Billiton’s iron ore president Jimmy Wilson, and Vale’s executive director of ferrous minerals Peter Poppinga, the CEOs spent Wednesday morning on site at the Samarco mine with CEO Ricardo Vescovi De Aragão meeting with community leaders.

“We were overcome when we saw the devastation in and around Bento Rodrigues. We cannot rebuild the lives of the families who have lost loved ones but we can redouble our commitment to Samarco to support the response effort,” the CEOs said.

While on site, the management team visited the tailings dam complex, including the site of the failed Fundão dam and affected downstream Santarém dam as well as the Germano dam which is being closely-monitored by Samarco.

They also met with the Samarco incident response teams and civil authorities who have worked tirelessly to evacuate the local community and search for missing people.

Vale and BHP Billiton have health, safety, environment and geotechnical experts onsite supporting Samarco’s response. Both companies have also had discussions with Samarco and authorities about the additional support that they can provide.

On behalf of all of the employees of Vale and BHP Billiton, Mackenzie and Ferreira offered their sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of the people who died as a result of the tragic incident, as well as the people of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo and the people of Brazil

Investigations are continuing and Samarco will provide further updates relating to the response and operations.

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