PHOTOS: The cleanup after the massive mud slide at the Samarco mine in Brazil

A photo taken just after the Samarco mine disaster. Image: BHP

BHP Billiton, fighting an $8 billion civil suit in Brazil, is making progress cleaning up the damage left by a massive wall of mud during the fatal Samarco mine disaster.

The iron ore mine’s tailings dam collapsed on November 5, sending a wave of mud downstream, killing 17 people, including five from a village of 12 working at the mine. Two people who were working on the dams are still unaccounted for.

Dean Dalla Valle, BHP’s chief commercial officer, who has been overseeing support for Samarco, says he’s encouraged by the progress of efforts to remediate and restore the impacts of the dam failure.

These before and after photographs, released by BHP, show the latest work at the mine:

Source: BHP

A deal between Brazilian authorities and BHP and 50/50 joint venture partner Vale to clean up the environmental mess from the fatal mine disaster last year has fallen apart.

The Federal Court of Appeal in Brasilia ratified the deal in May. However, the Federal Prosecutors’ Office then won an appeal against the ratification.

This increases the potentially liability for BHP. A cap placed on the cost of the cleanup has been lifted and a BRL20 billion ($A8 billion) public civil claim for damages made by the Brazilian Authorities against Samarco, Vale and BHP Brazil has been reinstated.

BHP says it intends to appeal the decision by the Superior Court of Justice.

In the meantime, BHP is proceeding as if the agreement was still in place.

“Samarco employees and members of affected communities have been working incredibly hard to deliver the remediation projects in the Framework Agreement and over 90% of the projects have been initiated,” says Dean Dalla Valle.

“There is still much to be done to rebuild and restore but we believe that working with Vale, Samarco and the Brazilian authorities we will be able to deliver on the commitments under the Agreement and we will do what’s right.”

More than 7,000 families whose livelihoods have been impacted by the dam failure are receiving financial assistance.

Work to stabilise tailings deposits along the river system are continuing and water testing is being conducted at 94 different points along the Rio Doce and marine areas near the mouth of the river.

These before and after shots are of the river:

The – Rio Doce. Image: BHP

BHP says three containment dykes built by Samarco immediately downstream of Fundão are working effectively in reducing tailings movement in the river system.

Samarco has confirmed it is unlikely to have approvals to restart mine operations this calendar year.

Analysts calculate impact from the mud slide will strip about 4% from BHP’s profits.

In its latest half year results, BHP recorded a pre-tax impairment of $US1.188 billion or $US858 million after tax for its investment in the Samarco iron ore mine.

This is made up of $US655 million for the share of losses relating to the Samarco dam failure, $US525 million for carrying value of the investment in Samarco and $US8 million for costs directly paid by BHP Billiton so far.

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