MELBOURNE, Feb 20 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The company lost 86% of its half-year earnings, or $5.6 bln, to a writedown in its smallest business - nickel - and more provisions for a 2015 tailings dam disaster. Other parts are chugging along, but the charges are a reminder to shareholders of the industry's outsized hazards.

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BHP on Feb. 20 reported earnings for the six months to Dec. 31 of $927 million, 86% lower than the same period in 2022. Results included a $5.6 billion after-tax loss, announced on Feb. 15, from writing down by some $2.5 billion the carrying value of its Western Australia Nickel business and adding $3.2 billion to its provisions for claims stemming from the 2015 Samarco tailings dam in Brazil. Excluding these, the firm's underlying net income was $6.6 billion, 2% higher than the same period last year.

Revenue grew 5% and underlying EBITDA increased 5%.

BHP is paying a dividend of 72 cents a share for the period, equating to 56% of underlying net income. (Editing by Robyn Mak and Nivedita Bhattacharjee)