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BHP disputes media report over Samarco stake sale to Vale

BHP Billiton Group disputed a report that claimed the mining giant wanted to sell its 50% joint venture stake in the Samarco iron ore mine in Brazil to project partner Vale SA, Reuters reported Aug. 1, citing BHP spokesman Ben Pratt.

Brazilian daily O Globo ran a column July 30 reporting that BHP had agreed to sell its project stake to partner Vale, with the transaction expected to take six months to complete.

The mine has been shut since November 2015 after a deadly tailings dam burst.

Vale recently said it was no longer possible to resume the Samarco iron ore operations by the end of 2017 due to licensing hurdles.

BHP and Vale each hold a 50% stake in the mine operator Samarco Mineração SA.

A Brazilian judge indefinitely suspended a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors over the tailings dam collapse, allowing the joint venture partners to negotiate a settlement for the 155 billion Brazilian reais civil claim for the incident until Oct. 30.

Pratt said BHP remains committed to the long-term remediation of the Samarco project.

"We expect that BHP would dearly love to be rid Samarco and the associated headaches but does appear intent on 'doing the right thing', as it has stated before. The corporate restructure and the issues of all stakeholders, including lenders, remains part of those headaches," Investec analysts wrote in a note to clients.

As of July 31, US$1 was equivalent to 3.13 Brazilian reais.