BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie made a public address last Friday regarding the Samarco Mineração incident.
The Samarco operations include a three tiered tailings dam complex that contained the Fundão dam. The Fundão dam burst on November 6, affecting the downstream Santarém dam.
The failure resulted in the significant release of mine tailings, flooding the community of Bento Rodrigues and impacting other communities downstream.
Samarco has confirmed one fatality, with a further 13 employees missing. Local authorities have reported at least 15 people from communities are unaccounted for.
In a statement, BHP said there is yet to be a confirmation of the cause behind the tailings release.
BHP has prioritised the welfare of the Samarco workforce and the local communities, and is working continually with Samarco, Vale and local communities and authorities to assess the full impact of the incident.
At the public address, Mackenzie confirmed he has spoken to the executives of Vale and Samarco, and they are working together to face the incident.
“We have also offered our full assistance to the Samarco team, and the local authorities, to manage the immediate rescue efforts and help first with the clean-up and then the investigation,” Mackenzie said.
He also expressed condolences on behalf of BHP. “Our thoughts are with the Samarco employees, contractors, their families and the local community of Bento Rodrigues that has been devastated by the flooding. We are deeply concerned for their welfare,” Mackenzie said.
“We still don’t know the full extent of the situation, but we are working closely with Samarco, and with Vale, to better understand the circumstances.”
Mackenzie will travel to Brazil later this week to experience the devastation the burst dam has created. BHP has offered its full support to help the immediate rescue efforts and to assist with the investigation.
Samarco has been providing regular updates on relief actions, including the allocation of 588 people to hotels. The company has also provided seven rescue helicopters, delivered 600 emergency kits, and food and water to affected communities.
BHP has a 50/50 joint venture with Vale on the Samarco project, and is reviewing its iron ore guidance for the 2016 financial year.