RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA – Brazilian iron ore miner Samarco Mineracao expects to receive a preliminary environmental license in the first quarter, an important step in its effort to resume operations by mid-2017, Chief Executive Officer Roberto Carvalho said in an interview on Tuesday.
This would be the first of three environmental licenses needed by the company, which is jointly owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton. Samarco’s operations were suspended in November 2015 after the collapse of a dam holding mining waste, or tailings, killed 19 people and caused Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.
“They are deep discussions, slow discussions, but they are advancing,” Carvalho said, referring to the process of getting the licenses approved by Semad, the environmental body for the state of Minas Gerais, where Samarco’s mine is located.
Carvalho said the licenses would allow Samarco to operate its mine at 18 million to 19 million tonnes of iron ore annually for two to three years, using an old pit known as Alegria Sul to store tailings.
This is well below the 30 million tonnes per year Samarco was producing before the dam spill, but Carvalho said the company would still be competitive. He declined to give a forecast for the price of iron ore next year.
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