Brazil Says BHP-Vale Mine Cleanup Bill May Reach $5.2 Billion

Brazil will seek as much as 20 billion reais ($5.2 billion) compensation for a dam collapse at an iron-ore venture owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA, said Attorney General Luis Inacio Adams.

The Samarco Mineracao SA venture and its owners will have to take responsibility for repairs to property and the environment as well as indemnification, Adams told reporters in Brasilia after meeting with President Dilma Rousseff.

The government is seeking full environmental recovery of the region affected by the Nov. 5 accident, he said, with a request for a judge to seize funds in case companies don’t pay. Rather than being paid upfront, the money will be disbursed according to the companies’ government-approved plans.

Authorities have called the accident the biggest mining disaster in Brazil’s history, with more than 20 people either confirmed dead or still missing after the collapse sent 50 million metric tons of iron-ore waste cascading into a village and into waterways.

The joint venture and its partners are voluntarily setting up funds to help clean up the Rio Doce and its tributaries. Samarco will set aside $260 million to fund emergency measures including prevention, remediation and compensation for the environmental and social effects of the incident, BHP said in a Nov. 17 statement.

While operating permits have been suspended, both owners say they are committed to restoring the venture. Deutsche Bank AG said it may be years before the site reopens.

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