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Vale to transfer pit for Samarco tailings

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016

BHP Billiton's Samarco joint venture in Brazil has taken a small step towards a restart of operations, signing a preliminary agreement with Vale to use the latter's Timbopeba pit to deposit its tailings in future.

Under the deal reached between Samarco and joint owners BHP and Vale, Vale will transfer the Timbopeba pit to Samarco, and Samarco will supply Vale an undisclosed amount of non-processed ore for a certain period after restarting operations.

Operations at the Samarco mine have been suspended since a tailings dam failed in November 2015, causing flooding that killed at least 19 people and led to widespread environmental damage.

BHP said earlier in December that production at the Samarco mine could restart sometime in 2017, but only if the joint venture project's $US3.8 billion of debt is restructured and new operating approvals are secured.

"After obtaining the required environmental licenses, Samarco is expected to temporarily deposit its tailings in its own pit - Alegria Sul, for a period of two to three years," BHP said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The use of the Timbopeba pit may allow Samarco to operate for up to several years without a new tailings structure."

The Timbopeba pit currently belongs to Vale, which runs a neighbouring mine.

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

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