Brazil Prosecutor Files Civil Claim Against Samarco, Vale, BHP

  • Samarco opted not to sign Commitment Agreement: statement
  • Samarco set aside $260 million to fund emergency measures

A Brazilian prosecutor has filed a civil action against Samarco Mineracao SA and the joint venture’s owners Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd. to ensure the rights of victims of a Nov. 5 dam accident are respected.

The decision follows “inefficient” compliance with recommendations from the Public Ministry in Minas Gerais state where the accident happened. At least 13 people were killed when a dam collapse released billions of gallons of tailings sludge into the valley below.

“On December 9, after initial negotiations, Samarco decided not to sign the Commitment Agreement,” said the statement, according to government news agency Agencia Brasil. “Given the company’s position on this, which causes great legal uncertainty for the victims, the prosecution decided to file the civil action.”

Toxic heavy metals and dangerous chemicals from the site that contaminated the Rio Doce river have spread to two states, interrupting drinking-water supplies for at least 260,000 in Brazil’s heavily populated southeastern region and doing untold damage to wildlife, according to the United Nations. The venture’s owners say the dam didn’t contain toxic materials.

The civil action requires funds be made available to provide adequate housing for victims, and requests Samarco block off 300 million reais ($79 million) for exclusive use in compensating and resettling those affected.

The joint venture and its partners are voluntarily setting up funds to help clean up the Rio Doce and its tributaries, Vale and BHP said. 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.

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