More than five years after the Fundão dam failure in 2015, Samarco restarted its operations at a reduced production level. With the production of iron ore pellets at the Ubu Complex, in Brazil’s Espírito Santo state on 23 December 2020, Samarco has made good on its commitment to a safer and more sustainable operation.
A new filtration system is expected to enable approximately 80% of the total tailings from its one operating concentrator to be dry stacked on the Alegria Sul pile. The other 20%, comprising water and slimes, will be transported to the Alegria Sul Pit, a bedrock self-contained structure. In addition to the expected increased safety features of this new system, Samarco’s environmental sustainability will be supported through the re-use in the operations of all the water extracted by the tailings filtration facility.
Samarco’s new tailings management system is in line with BHP’s own commitment to the development of new tailings management technologies.
Over the last five years, Samarco has devoted significant time and attention to the reinforcement of the controlling and monitoring systems for its existing geotechnical structures. The company’s Monitoring and Inspection Center (CMI) provides online data analysis and applied intelligence, with more than 600 state-of-the-art pieces of equipment. The closed circuit television (CCTV system) of the Ubu Port has an intelligent and automated monitoring system, with a video analysis algorithm that processes images and detects possible irregularities. This technology allows Samarco to monitor its structures 24 hours a day. These structures are in the process of being decommissioned to meet Brazilian government requirements for all upstream tailings dams.
In addition, Samarco has installed sirens in the areas of its existing dams and in the communities of the municipalities of Mariana and Barra Longa, with monthly tests taking place. Emergency drills have been carried out since November 2015, with the participation of approximately 3,500 people from the communities in the region.
Apart from preparing itself to restart operations in a safer way for its employees, the community and the environment, Samarco remains committed to remediation and compensation for the Fundão dam failure. By restarting, Samarco can help to fund the Renova Foundation and also provide jobs and pay taxes, which contribute to the local economy and communities.
The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in 2015 continues, and BHP continues to support Renova in its work. By November 2020, Renova had spent ~BRL 10.7 billion [~US$2.1billion] on its remediation and compensation programs, and approximately ~BRL 3.1 billion [~US$620 million] had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.