Australia: Documents allege BHP execs were warned over deadly dam

Author: Lia Timson, The Sydney Morning Herald, Published on: 6 March 2019

"'Profit before people': documents allege BHP execs were warned over deadly dam", 4 March 2019

Senior executives working for mining giants BHP and Vale were aware of significant problems at their jointly-owned Samarco dam years before it burst causing one of Brazil's worst environmental disasters, court documents allege.

...Court documents including board meeting minutes and expert reports suggest Samarco executives and board members, including BHP and Vale-appointed directors, knew of mounting problems with the dam's structure and were aware of adverse risk assessments years before the collapse.

However, the directors did not have downstream villages including Bento Rodrigues relocated despite the board repeatedly expressing concerns about the dam and asking for relocation costs.

...The minutes of meetings held in Perth, London, Melbourne, Dubai and in Brazil, and obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, suggest the Samarco board was aware of problems shortly after the dam began operating in late 2008.

...Brazilian federal prosecutor Jose Adercio Sampaio told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald late last year he was confident of securing convictions.

...A BHP spokesperson said the company had "no reason to believe BHP people knew the dam was at risk of failing".

"We reject outright criminal charges against the company and its employees and will continue in our defence and support of affected individuals," it said.

A BHP statement said that monitoring and alarm systems at all sites had been reviewed and "all significant tailings storage facilities have emergency response plans in place".

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Related companies: BHP Billiton Samarco (joint venture BHP Billiton and Vale) Vale