Iron ore miner Samarco and joint venture owners BHP Billiton and Vale have entered a non-binding agreement allowing Samarco to use Vale’s Timbopeba tailings pit if it restarts operations.
Samarco has been closed since November last year following a tailings dam failure that left 19 people dead and caused flooding in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerias and Espirito Santo.
Under the deal, Vale would transfer the Timbopeba pit to Samarco and as compensation Samarco will give Vale an amount of non-processed ore for a certain period of time.
Samarco intends to use its own tailings pit – Algeria Sul – for two to three years once it receives the necessary environmental licences. Using the Timbopeda pit could allow Samarco to operate for several years without a new tailings facility.
BHP said a restart to production at Samarco is possible next year if it deemed safe and receives regulatory approvals from the Brazilian authorities.
“Samarco’s operations will be restarted only if it is safe and economically viable to do so,” BHP said.
The companies aim to make a formal agreement next year following due diligence and necessary government approvals.