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BHP, Vale secure further extension on $48bn Samarco dam disaster settlement

EBR Staff Writer Published 01 November 2017

Mining firms BHP Billiton and Vale have been given an extension of up to 16 November by a Brazilian court to reach a final settlement on the $48.6bn claims they face from the 2015 Samarco dam disaster in the Minas Gerais state.

The case relates to the Samarco Mineração mining operations owned by BHP Billiton and Vale.

On 5 November 2015, a dam that was constructed in Bento Rodrigues to store iron ore waste of the Samarco mine suffered a massive failure, leading to flooding in nearby towns. At least 17 people died and over a dozen were injured owing to the Samarco dam disaster.

The exact causes of the disaster are yet to be ascertained with probe still going on. Initially, the dam breakdown was rumored to be due to some weaknesses in its structure which was denied by BHP Billiton.

In May 2016, Brazilian federal prosecutors charged BHP Billiton and Vale a claim of BRL155bn ($48.6bn) to compensate for the social, environmental and economic costs of cleaning up what is considered as the worst environmental disaster in Brazil.

The Samarco joint venture partners also faced an additional BRL20bn ($6.3bn) in the form of public civil claims.

Earlier this year, the court had ordered a new settlement date of 30 October after BHP Billiton and Vale could not reach an agreement by a previous deadline of 30 June 2017. The Samarco partners have managed to buy time again to settle the ongoing dispute.

BHP Billiton stated that the extension granted for the settlement enables continuation of the interim security arrangements given to the Court on 24 January along with the continued suspension of the legal proceedings and injunctions.

Image: The village of Bento Rodrigues after the Samarco dam disaster. Photo:courtesy of Senado Federal/Wikipedia.org.