A BHP iron ore mine's tailings dam has burst in Brazil’s southeast on November 6, leaving 15 dead, and 45 missing
The Fundao dam is operated by Samarco Mineração, which is a 50/50 joint venture between Vale and BHP.
The dam broke at 4:20pm, local time, in a major mining region between Ouro Preto and Mariana, flooding the local community of Bento Rodrigues with industrial waste for several hundred kilometres.
Emergency teams were rushed to the site, and local residents ordered to evacuate.
The Civil Defence department has been unable to confirm casualties, struggling to reach affected areas.
“We know there are deaths in this accident, but there is no confirmation of the number,” a Civil Defence official said.
“It’s very difficult to reach the site by car, there’s a lot of mud. Our rescue tactic is to get as close as possible and cover the rest on foot.”
BHP has confirmed the incident and will provide updates once it receives more information.
“BHP Billiton is concerned for the safety of employees and the local community,” it said in an official company statement.
A spokesperson for Samarco said they are working to assist the affected community.
“The organisation is mobilising all efforts to prioritise helping people and mitigating damage to the environment.
“It is not possible at this time to confirm the causes and extent of the incident.”
BHP shares decreased by more than five per cent the day of the incident.
This incident follows Vale’s plans to cut 25 million metric tonnes of high cost iron ore from its portfolio.