BHP Billiton provided Sunday an update on the incident at the Samarco Mineração S.A (Samarco) iron ore operation in Minas Gerais, Brazil that occurred on Thursday, 5 November 2015. BHP Billiton and Vale both hold a 50 percent interest in Samarco.
According to BHP Billiton, the Samarco operations include a three tiered tailings dam complex. Within this complex, the Fundão dam failed and the downstream Santarém dam has been affected. 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, BHP Billiton said.
BHP Billiton’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Mackenzie, will go to Brazil this week to understand first-hand the human, environmental and operational impacts of the incident. Meanwhile, BHP Billiton said it has offered its full support to help the immediate rescue efforts and to assist with the investigation.
BHP Billiton said its immediate priority is the welfare of the Samarco workforce and the local communities.
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, BHP Billiton said.
BHP Billiton said it will continue to work with Samarco (operator), Vale, the local communities, local authorities, regulators and insurers to assess the full impact of this tragic incident. Further updates will be provided as soon as more information becomes available.
The Samarco operations have the capacity to produce 30.5 Mtpa 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 percent of the BHP Billiton Group’s Underlying EBIT.
Following this incident, BHP Billiton’s iron ore production guidance for the 2016 financial year is under review.