As miners globally review the way they store waste in the wake of another horrific dam spill, the solution may be as simple as it is dramatic: spend a lot more.
Images of sludge spewing into towns and rivers could be a thing of the past if mines used different types of storage such as removing water or building on more stable ground. While that can be as much as 10 times costlier for companies already squeezed by slumping prices, the cost is much higher when things go wrong.
The cleanup bill for the Nov. 5 spill at the Samarco iron-ore venture in Brazil, owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA, probably will exceed $1 billion, Deutsche Bank AG said. Then there’s lost output and potential lawsuits.
“A failure is a lot more expensive than doing it right,” said Dirk van Zyl, professor of mining engineering at the University of British Columbia and one of three experts on a panel into a dam spill in Canada last year.
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