BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) shares collapsed Friday in Sydney, hitting a 10-year low after the world’s largest miner revealed the death toll from a dam-burst at its jointly-owned Brazilian iron-ore mine operation last week climbed to nine, and commodity prices dived overnight.
The company stock fell 3.45% to below $20 in Australia, a price last seen in late 2005, but it recovered slightly in late trade closing at $20.23
BHP’s shares have slumped almost 31% so far this year, experiencing the biggest losses ever since the news of last week’s mining disaster in Brazil.
The miner and its partner in the Samarco operation, Vale (NYSE:VALE), have already been fined $66 million by the Brazilian government, but they also face demands to pay for the estimated $1 billion clean-up costs.
In the update Friday, BHP also revealed that mine tailings—a mix of water and iron-ore waste—now extended 440 kilometers (273 miles) downstream through remote mountain valleys from the mine site in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. Local authorities have advised that 637 people have been evacuated and 11 communities affected. Nineteen people remain missing.
BHP chief executive, Andrew Mackenzie, is expected to return to Australia from Brazil next week to attend the company’s annual general meeting in Perth.