BHP Billiton has approved spending $181m to fund remediation and compensation programmes at the Samarco iron ore joint venture in Brazil following the ruptured dam disaster in 2015 that killed 17 people and caused widespread damage. 

The Fundao tailings dam burst at Samarco's Germano mining site near the town of Mariana in Minas Gerais, south-east Brazil, also injuring more than 50 people.

Fundao is located close to the Gualaxo do Norte river and contained tailings, a mining waste product of metal filings, water.

The compensation programmes have been identified under the framework agreement governed and overseen by the Renova Foundation.

"Restart will occur only if it is safe and economic to do so and the necessary approvals have been obtained from Brazilian authorities."

The amount will be offset against BHP’s provision of $1.2bn, recognised as of 30 June this year.

A short-term facility of up to $115m will also be provided to Samarco to carry out remediation and stabilisation work and to support its operations. These funds are planned to be released to Samarco as required.

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BHP Billiton said in a statement: “A restart of Samarco operations is important for Samarco, BHP Billiton Brasil, Vale, the local communities and for the Brazilian economy.

“Restart will occur only if it is safe and economic to do so and the necessary approvals have been obtained from Brazilian authorities. BHP Billiton Brasil continues to work through options for restart with Vale and Samarco.”