The scale of the 5 November tailings dam burst at the BHP Billiton/Vale-owned Samarco iron ore mine in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, continues to grow as the waste from the dam flows downstream. It seems it is becoming the biggest tailings dam disaster in history.
Krenak indigenous people are blocking Vale’s railway from the mine in protest at pollution of their only source of drinking water. The Brazilian government has fined Samarco and withdrawn its licence. Legal action is being taken on behalf of those suffering because of the disaster. Greenpeace Brazil activists targeted the BHP Billiton AGM in Perth, Australia, yesterday.
BHP Billiton touts itself as one of the most responsible companies in the mining industry. At its London AGM company Chairman Jac Nasser and CEO Andrew Mackenzie spoke of the company’s dedication to improving safety. But there are reports that warnings over the condition of tailings dams at Samarco were not heeded, and that the rush to dig up ever more iron ore, ever more cheaply, may have compromised the safety that the company says it prioritises.
If this is the best the mining industry has to offer, what of the rest?
There has been a huge amount of media coverage of the deepening crisis. The following is a selection.
Aerial photographs of before and after the disaster; other photos here.
At BHP Billiton shareholder meeting, protesters demand justice for Brazilian mining disaster victims
Despite forewarning & global trend of similar catastrophes, two of world’s largest mining companies didn’t act to prevent disaster.
Krenak Indian tribe blocks rail line in protest at BHP Billiton’s Brazil disaster
Anger in the Brazilian city of Mariana about the Samarco tailings dam disaster is turning to action, with an Indian tribe affected by the tragedy blocking a key iron ore railroad line owned by Vale.
Brazil: Who should take main blame for the Samarco mining tsunami?
Further information has emerged over the week following the catastrophic collapse of two tailings dams at the Samarco iron ore mine in Brazil.
Samarco makes emergency repairs to dams at risk as rain sets in
Brazilian miner Samarco said on Tuesday it is conducting real-time monitoring and emergency repairs on two of its tailings dams that suffered damage in the wake of the Nov. 5 collapse of another dam that killed 11 and left another 12 missing.
Brazil mining flood could devastate environment for years
The collapse of two dams at a Brazilian mine has cut off drinking water for quarter of a million people and saturated waterways downstream with dense orange sediment that could wreck the ecosystem for years to come.
Samarco mine disaster: BHP refuses to admit knowledge of report of ‘design faults’
The fallout from the Brazilian mudslide disaster is deepening for BHP Billiton after the emergence of a two-year old report warning of design flaws in the tailings dam system at its iron ore joint venture that unleashed a deadly mudslide last week.
Brazil mine accident puts tailings ponds safety back in the hot spot
The next time a mining company decides against dry-stacking as a too-costly alternative to tailings ponds, its directors and shareholders may want to consider what a tailings pond breach could cost companies like Imperial Metals Corp. or BHP Billiton Ltd.
BHP to run extra checks on all tailings dams in wake of Brazil disaster
BHP Billiton is running extra checks of tailings dams across its copper, coal and iron ore divisions, after a “catastrophic” tailings dam failure at its Brazil iron ore site that caused a deadly mudslide to engulf villages.
Brazil Mine Spill: Enough is Enough
This latest catastrophe, in which two tailings dams burst in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, is particularly disturbing.
Brazil cancels mining licence of firm owned by BHP Billiton after accident
Brazilian authorities have said they have cancelled the mining licence and halted operations at an iron ore mine where the collapse of a waste reservoir triggered a deadly mudslide.
BHP Billiton hits decade low on Brazil tragedy update
BHP Billiton shares collapsed Friday in Sydney, hitting a 10-year low after the world’s largest miner revealed the death toll from a dam-burst at its jointly-owned Brazilian iron-ore mine operation last week climbed to nine, and commodity prices dived overnight.
Brazil’s Vale says Samarco costs already exceed insurance
The cost of a deadly dam burst at an iron ore mine in Brazil run by Samarco has already exceeded the insurance cap for civil damages, co-owner Vale SA said on Monday.
BHP Billiton under pressure over Samarco disaster
The diving BHP Billiton share price has wiped more than $6 billion from the retirement savings of Australian workers as the company now faces the prospect of pressure from institutional investors to better link executive pay to safety breaches.
BHP dividend at risk as deadly Brazil dam collapse adds to woes
BHP Billiton has already lost its title as Australia’s most valuable stock, and now its status as the biggest dividend-payer may be under threat.