Update on Fundao iron ore tailings dam failure

Good progress is continuing to be made with 12th Federal Court of Belo Horizonte in Brazil which is seeking to expedite the remediation process related to the Fundao dam failure, with recent judicial decisions regarding financial assistance and compensation of impacted persons, as well as oversight of other reparation programs.

The collapse of Fundão was the biggest environmental disaster of the world mining industry, both in terms of the volume of tailings dumped and the magnitude of the damage.

The Fundão dam began operating in 2008 and was designed to contain a total of 79.6 million m3 of fine tailings (mud) and 32 million m3 of sandy tailings during its 25-year lifespan.

In November 2015, Fundão contained 56.4 million m3 of iron ore tailings deposited in merely seven years of operation, a result of the never-before attained records of Brazilian production in the years 2013 to 2015.

According to Samarco, the total collapse of the Fundão tailings dam took place on 05 November 2015, between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm. About 43 million m3 of tailings (80% of the total contained volume) were unleashed, generating mud waves 10 m high, killing 19 people and causing irreversible environmental damage to hundreds of watercourses in the basin of the Doce River and associated ecosystems.

On 30 September 2020, the Federal and the Minas Gerais State Public Prosecutors’ Offices and the Federal, the Minas Gerais and the Espirito Santo State Public Defenders’ Offices filed a request to the 12th Federal Court of Belo Horizonte for immediate resumption of the public civil action filed in 2016.

This claim had been suspended under a Governance Agreement ratified on 8 August 2018, in which BHP Brasil, Samarco and Vale established a process to renegotiate the environmental and socio-economic programs over two years to progress settlement of the R$155 billion (approximately US$28 billion) Federal Public Prosecution Office claim.

BHP, Samarco and Vale consider the resumption request without merit, given that there was no default of obligations under the Governance Agreement. BHP, Samarco and Vale remain committed to supporting the Renova Foundation and its work to progress the remediation and compensatory programs to restore the environment and re-establish communities affected by the Samarco tragedy. Still today, 43 million m3 of iron ore tailings from the collapse of the Fundão dam continue to cause environmental damage, polluting 668 km of watercourses from the Doce River to the Atlantic Ocean.

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