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Operations restart at Samarco

Alegria Sul pit at Samarco. Image from BHP.

Samarco Mineração S.A. has met the licensing requirements to restart operations at its Germano complex in Minas Gerais and its Ubu complex in Espírito Santo, Brazil, and has commenced iron ore pellet production, BHP announced Wednesday.

The restart comes as iron ore prices have surged on expectations of bullish demand in 2021, as top consumer China recovers while a shortfall in supply from Brazil persists.

Samarco’s operations were suspended following the failure of the Fundão dam in November 2015.

The dam, owned by Samarco – controlled by Vale and BHP – burst, releasing 39.2 million cubic meters of tailings waste in the Rio Doce Basin, killing 19 people. It was considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.

Samarco’s gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking.

Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations. Samarco expects initially to produce approximately eight million tonnes of iron ore pellets per annum.

The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in 2015 continues, and BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda. continues to support Renova in its work, the company said.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately BRL 10.7 billion (approximately $2.1 billion) on its remediation and compensation programs and approximately BRL 3.1 billion ($620 million) had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.