BHP Billiton indicates Samarco mine could restart in 2017

BHP Billiton indicates Samarco mine could restart in 2017

BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) has suggested it could restart operations at its Brazilian Samarco iron ore project as early as 2017.

The mining giant confirmed licence applications to reinitiate production at the mine, at a reduced rate, had already been submitted to the Brazilian authorities.

However BHP reiterated that for mining to recommence at Samarco, which is operated through a joint venture with Vale, it would require debt restructuring to ensure the super project is economically viable.

Operations at Samarco were suspended a year ago after a dam wall collapsed, flooding a nearby village and killing 19 people. The disaster led to criminal cases being brought against several senior BHP and Vale officials.

The mine produced 30 million tonnes of iron ore annually prior to the fatal accident.

“A restart of Samarco operations is important for Samarco, BHP Billiton Brasil, Vale, the local communities and for the Brazilian economy,” a BHP release said. “Samarco has submitted licensing applications … for Samarco to restart operations at reduced capacity.

“A restart of operations is technically feasible in 2017, however, restart will occur only if it is safe to do so and the necessary approvals are received from Brazilian authorities.”