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BHP Group approves $44 million for JV Samarco restart

FILE PHOTO: BHP Billiton Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie is silhouetted against a screen projecting the company's logo at a roundtable meeting with journalists in Tokyo, Japan June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

(Reuters) - Miner BHP Group Ltd <BHP.AX> said on Friday it has approved $44 million for work related to a restart at Samarco Mineracao, its joint venture with Vale SA <VALE3.Sa> in Brazil, which has been closed since a deadly dam collapse four years ago.

BHP said the funding will enable the construction of a filtration plant and a restart at Samarco, where operations were suspended following the tailings dam failure in November 2015 that killed 19 people.

Last week, Samarco won permission from the environmental regulator of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais to resume operations at the Germano iron ore mine. Vale said separately it expected production at Samarco to resume toward the end of 2020.

BHP said Samarco has now obtained all environmental licenses to progress towards the restart.

The filtration system will allow Samarco to use a "dry stacking" technology to dispose of minings waste, replacing the previous tailings dam based system, Vale said last week.

Last month, BHP posted a slight dip in its September quarter iron ore production due to planned maintenance at a key port, but maintained its fiscal 2020 iron ore production forecast.

Iron ore prices have come off five-year highs touched in July as Vale ramped up production that had been curtailed by another fatal dam disaster earlier this year.

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

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