BHP Billiton boss Andrew Mackenzie's salary was halved in the wake of the Samarco dam disaster

Caitlin Morrison
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19 people were killed when a dam burst at BHP's Samarco operation in Brazil (Source: Getty)

The chief executive of BHP Billiton took a more than 50 per cent pay cut in the 2016 fiscal year, as a result of a tragic dam failure at one of the company's Brazilian mines.

The failure of the dam at Samarco Mineracao in November 2015, which BHP Billiton jointly owns with local company Vale, resulted in the death of 19 people.

Andrew Mackenzie's salary dropped to $2.24m (£1.73m) from $4.58m the year before, with his base salary maintained at $1.7m but no short- or long-term incentive payments, and the company said the disaster at Samarco was a "key consideration" in this decision.

The miner also cited "the ongoing decline in commodity markets and its associated impact on our performance". BHP reported a record $6.4bn net loss for the year to 30 June.

The firm also slashed its dividend to 78 US cents, from 124 cents in 2015.

Mackenzie said the year had seen "significantly weaker commodity prices", as well as three exceptional charges that contributed to the company's loss - these included a $4.9bn impairment charge on the value of its onshore US assets, a $2.2bn charge for the financial impacts of the Samarco dam disaster, and $570m for global taxation matters.

However, he continued: "We have made the necessary changes to our company and completed the structural work (including a new streamlined operating model) to simplify our portfolio and increase our agility.

"We now have everything in place to create significant future value – through more productivity gains, attractive growth projects, our ambitious exploration program and new technology"

Mackenzie added: "While it is hard to be positive about our safety performance in the shadow of Samarco, this past year we achieved some strong improvements at our BHP Billiton operated sites, such as no fatalities and a 20 per cent decrease in high-potential injury events. We put safety first in all that we do – nothing is more important."

There is still no date set for restarting operations at Samarco.

London-listed shares in BHP had edged up 1.1 per cent to 1,043.5p in lunchtime trading.

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