RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA expects Samarco, an iron ore joint venture it owns with BHP Billiton, to restart operations in the middle of 2017, a company executive said on Thursday.
Samarco’s mine has been shut since November when a tailings dam on the site burst, killing 19 people and causing Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster.
André Figueiredo, head of investor relations at Vale, told a stock market event in Sao Paulo that he thought Samarco operations could restart by mid-2017 in comments first reported by the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper and confirmed by a Vale spokesperson.
Figueiredo did not provide any details on why he expected Samarco to be producing again by then.
Samarco had originally expected to resume production this year, but has since said that is unlikely. The state environmental body responsible for granting permission to resume operations, Semad, has said the process would continue into next year.
The financial strain of being without its primary revenue stream has led Samarco to consider talking to bondholders about changing the terms on $2.2 billion of securities or pursue an exchange offer, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday which cited two people with knowledge of the situation. (Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Sandra Maler)