A little relief for BHP in Brazil dam disaster probe

A smaller amount of mining waste, called tailings, was released during the Samarco mine disaster in Brazil than previously thought, BHP Billiton has said.

Satellite studies showed that the amount of tailings released when two dams at the Brazilian mine burst was about 32 million cubic meters, not more than 50 million cubic meters as originally estimated, the mining giant revealed in an update on Friday.

The update said that about 85 percent of the tailings were found within 85 kilometers of the dam in Minas Gerais, Brazil's main mining state.

Christophe Simon | AFP | Getty Images

Analysis by the Brazilian Geological Service and the National water Agency found the tailings were non-toxic, the miner reiterated.

BHP has come under fire from the Brazilian government over the November spill that killed 17 people - 12 workers and five local residents - and allowed 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste spill into a major river valley.

The Brazilian government and two states have sued BHP and its Samarco partner, Brazilian mining behemoth Vale, for more than $5 billion to cover the cost of cleaning up what the country called its worst environmental disaster.

BHP stock closed near flat at $16.35 in Australia on Friday.

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