Vale sees possible Samarco restart in 2020, BHP uncertain on date

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 17 (Reuters) –¬†Samarco, a joint venture between Brazil's Vale and mining major BHP , could resume iron ore production at a third of its capacity at the beginning of 2020, Vale's CEO said, though BHP declined to give a date.

Operations at Samarco were halted in late 2015 after one of its dams collapsed, killing 19 people and causing one of Brazil's worst environmental disasters.

At an event in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said "all indications are that there will be no problems and that, by the beginning of 2020, all issues will be overcome and it will be possible to resume operations".

BHP Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie, however, told a London news conference on the sidelines of the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday that he could not give a date because there were many issues to address, including permits, debt-holders and assessment of the asset's financial viability.

"It's quite complex and we are working through it. Until we can be completely clear on some of these issues, I'd rather not be too definitive," he said when asked about Vale's comments on a possible restart.

(By Marta Nogueira and Barbara Lewis; Editing by Tom Brown and David Goodman)