Two dams at a Brazilian mine owned by the world’s largest miners BHP Billiton collapsed on Friday.
At least 17 people are reported to have died; over 30 are injured while dozens are still missing after the dam that held waste water from the Samarco iron ore mine collapsed. Both the mine and the dams were operated by Samarco Mineração, a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Vale.
In a statement, the company said that it has not yet established what had caused the dam to burst and that it is fully cooperating with police, firefighters and other rescue workers to attend to the injured and homeless in and around the mining town of Mariana in Minas Gerais.
The villages near the mine have been completely devastated by the massive mudflow. Samarco said it was providing full psychological and financial support to the families who had been affected by the dam collapse.
“As you know there has been a terrible incident at the Samarco iron ore operation in Minas Gerais, in south-east Brazil. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the Samarco employees, contractors, their families and the local community of Bento Rodrigues that has been devastated by the flooding. We are deeply concerned for their welfare. We still don’t know the full extent of the situation, but we are working closely with Samarco, and with Vale, to better understand the circumstances,” said BHP CEP Andrew Mackenzie.
“We have also offered our full assistance to the Samarco team, and the local authorities, to manage the immediate rescue efforts and help first with the clean-up and then the investigation.”
“We would like to express our solidarity to all affected by this accident at Samarco’s tailings dams in the state of Minas Gerais. We will do everything in our power to offer all the necessary support to Samarco and the authorities at this sad time for employees, their family members and the neighboring communities,” said Murilo Ferreira, CEO and president of Vale.