Is BHP Billiton considering reviewing tailings dams across the rest of the business after the incident at Samarco?
We have brought forward the next review of all tailings dams in which BHP Billiton has an interest.
Has production at Samarco ceased completely?
Yes, operations were immediately shut down following the incident and Samarco’s operating licence has been suspended. Mining operations will remain suspended as authorities continue their investigations and Samarco works with the authorities to develop rectification work plans.
What does the Agreement cover?
There are two broad types of programs included in the Agreement:
Reparatory Programs to restore the environment, local communities and the social condition of the affected areas; and
Compensatory Programs to provide compensation where remediation is not possible, and to provide compensation on a goodwill basis for certain special projects which go beyond strict make-good and compensation (for example, improvements to sewage systems and landfill management in the river basin).
What Agreement do you have to help rebuild the community?
On 2 March 2016, Samarco and its two shareholders, Vale and BHP Billiton, entered into an agreement with the Federal Attorney General of Brazil, the States of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais and certain other public authorities (Brazilian Authorities) for the restoration of the environment and communities affected by the Samarco dam failure on 5 November 2015.
Is the plume toxic?
The tailings that entered the Rio Doce were comprised of clay and silt material from the washing and processing of earth containing iron ore, which is naturally abundant in the region. Based on available data, the tailings are chemically stable. They will not change chemical composition in water and will behave in the environment like normal soils in the catchment.
Is there a full investigation under way into the root‐cause? What has the investigation found so far?
Vale, BHP Billiton and Samarco have jointly engaged New York-based law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP to conduct the external investigation into the cause of the breach of the Fundão tailings dam and the Santarém water dam. Cleary Gottlieb will draw on expertise in disciplines such as geotechnical engineering and hydrology. BHP Billiton has committed to release publicly the findings of the external investigation, and to sharing the results with other resources companies.
Who from BHP Billiton is working in Brazil in response to the incident?
We have a growing team of technical experts and senior management on the ground from across our businesses and corporate functions to support Samarco’s response efforts. This includes disaster relief and humanitarian response experts, senior health, safety and environmental executives, environmental scientists, hydrologists, geotechnical engineers and a number of other support staff.
What were the immediate actions from BHP Billiton in order to aid the affected employees, their families and local residents and to minimise the environmental impact of the incident?
As soon as we became aware of the dam failure, we spoke to our joint venture partner Vale and to the operator, Samarco, offering our full assistance to support the Samarco team’s response effort. The immediate focus was on the welfare of the Samarco workforce and the affected communities.
What occurred at Samarco and what is BHP Billiton's ownership interest?
On Thursday, 5 November 2015, a serious and tragic incident occurred at the Samarco Mineração S.A (Samarco) iron ore operation in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Samarco is the operator and each of BHP Billiton and Vale holds a 50 percent interest in Samarco.