Samarco restarts iron ore pellet plant 5 years after disaster

Samarco has met the licensing requirements to restart operations at its Germano complex in Minas Gerais and its Ubu complex in Espírito Santo, Brazil, and has commenced iron ore pellet production.

Samarco’s operations were suspended following the failure of the Fundão dam on 5 November 2015.

Samarco’s gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking.

Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations. Samarco expects initially to produce approximately eight million tonnes of iron ore pellets per annum.

The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation (Renova) to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in 2015 continues, and BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda. continues to support Renova in its work.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately BRL 10.7 billion (approximately US$2.1 billion) on its remediation and compensation programs. By November 2020, approximately BRL 3.1 billion (approximately US$620 million) had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.

BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda. and Vale S.A. each hold a 50 per cent interest in Samarco.


Last year, Outotec executed the maintenance of pallet cars for all four of Samarco’s pellet plants, where the lifetime of the pallet cars at plant 1 was coming to an end. Based on the latest design of pellet plants 3 and 4, some of the most modern plants in the world, and the extensive maintenance experience, Outotec delivered redesigned pallet cars with collaborative contributions from Samarco to incorporate all improvements that the induration machine would allow, while also looking at compatibility of parts between the plants.

The pallet cars of plant 1 had to undergo frequent maintenance and extensive repairs which resulted in downtime, compromising production and increasing energy consumption as well as maintenance and spare part costs.

Based on the findings detailed in the inspection report, a decision was taken by Samarco to replace the fleet of 286 pallet cars. The new pallet cars were especially designed in partnership with Samarco, one objective being to significantly reduce their spare part inventory.

Samarco operates four plants for the pelletizing of iron ore, located at Ponta Ubu, Anchieta, in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil. The first two plants were built by Davy and Kvaerner in 1974 and 1995 respectively.

Outotec was awarded the EPC contract for pellet plant 4, which included an indurating machine of 816m2, with a design capacity of more than 9 million tons per year, making it the largest single furnace in the world. Startup of the plant commenced in 2014, which increased the nominal production capacity at Ponta Ubu to 30.5 million metric tons per year.

Pallet cars are core equipment of the travelling grate pelletizing technology. They constitute the moving furnace grate and are exposed to heavy loads at high temperatures in the furnace with subsequent cooling on the return track, as well as harsh abrasion during the discharge of hardened pellets.

The design of pallet cars is therefore of utmost importance to withstand wear and tear, extend service life and to ensure optimal plant performance with high equipment reliability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *