Brazilian mining company Samarco and its owners Vale and BHP Billiton have launched an investigation into the cause of the ruptured tailings dam that caused widespread devastation in November 2015.

Findings into the immediate failure causes of the Fundão tailings dam at the iron ore operations of Samarco in Minas Gerais, Brazil, were published by a panel of four geotechnical specialists.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton was commissioned by the companies to advise on the technical aspects of the failure and conduct testing and analysis.

"We have shared these findings so that the sector can learn from the dam."

BHP Billiton chief commercial officer Dean Dalla Valle said: “This important technical study will improve our understanding of what happened at Samarco.

“We have shared these findings so that the sector can learn from the dam failure and develop and implement further standards that can help prevent a similar event like this happening again.”

Separately, BHP Billiton also conducted its own reviews of other significant dams at its operations and of its non-operated minerals joint venture arrangements. It has confirmed that those dams are stable. 

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Prior to releasing the findings, the panel investigated the incident for ten months, which involved scientific analysis concerning geotechnical engineers and seismologists.

BHP Billiton has also evaluated guidelines worldwide to determine leading practice in dam management and contributed to a review initiated by the International Council on Mining and Metals into tailings management.

BHP Billiton and Vale are also continuing to review operations arrangements at the Samarco joint venture.