SAO PAULO, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Restarting operations at Brazil’s Samarco iron ore mine, a joint venture between Vale SA and BHP Billiton, depends on an agreement with prosecutors on building a new tailing dam system, BHP executive Bryan Quinn said in an interview.
A BHP spokesman also said by phone that “there is little likelihood” of the disaster-struck mine restarting operations next year even if the company expects to have all of the licenses it needs, confirming statements made by Quinn in a separate interview with newspaper Valor Economico.
A new tailing dam system is key to restarting mining operations that have stalled since 2015 when an existing dam burst, releasing a torrent of toxic mud that killed 19 people and left a trail of destruction for hundreds of kilometers.
Quinn, the BHP executive in charge of the company’s mineral joint ventures, told Reuters that despite receiving an environmental license eight months ago to build the tailing system, the company also needs to make a deal with federal prosecutors in Minas Gerais state to proceed.
He did not give details on what terms are being negotiated or a reason for why building the tailing system hinged on the deal. The prosecutor’s office in Minas Gerais declined to comment, saying the negotiations were confidential. (Reporting by Marta Nogueira and Brad Haynes Writing by Jake Spring Editing by Frances Kerry)