BHP Group Ltd said on Thursday it had met licensing requirements to restart operations and had begun iron ore pellet production at its Samarco joint venture with Brazil’s Vale SA, five years after a deadly dam disaster.
The restart of iron ore mining comes just as prices of the commodity have soared in recent weeks on expectation of bullish demand in 2021, as top consumer China further recovers from the coronavirus while a Brazilian supply shortfall persists.
Independent tests had been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart and operations are expected initially to produce about 8 million tonnes of iron ore pellets per annum, the miner said.
In the 2015 incident, a mining waste dam burst at Samarco’s site in the town of Mariana, releasing a torrent of sludge that killed 19 people and leading to the suspension of operations and multiple legal cases against the miners.
The collapse is considered Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster, contaminating a river for hundreds of miles to the ocean.
Brazilian federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit in October contesting the miners’ compensation package for victims, arguing that the package is far too low.
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