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Mining giants Vale, BHP propose $25 bn settlement over Brazil dam collapse

Rio de Janeiro – Mining giants Vale and BHP have proposed paying a nearly $25 billion settlement over a 2015 dam collapse in Brazil that killed 19 people and flooded dozens of towns, Vale said Monday.

The companies proposed a payment of 127 billion reais, or nearly $25 billion dollars, for a “definitive repair” of damages in one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, the Brazilian firm said in a statement.

The amount included more than $7 billion already spent on repairs and compensation for about 430,000 affected people, it added.

The tragedy in the southeastern town of Mariana unleashed a torrent of nearly 40 million cubic meters of highly toxic mining waste sludge, killing 19 people, flooding 39 towns and leaving more than 600 people homeless.

The collapsed tailings dam at an iron ore mine was owned by Samarco, a joint venture between Brazil’s Vale and the Anglo-Australian miner BHP.

The towns of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo were wiped off the map when the copper-colored iron ore waste roared down the mountainside.

The affected areas remain ghost towns, with thousands of people awaiting some kind of compensation.

Vale and BHP are also facing a class-action lawsuit in the United Kingdom over the incident, involving as many as 700,000 victims.

– Another collapse – 

According to a United Nations’ assessment shortly after the disaster, the waste from the Fundao tailings dam travelled hundreds of kilometers through the Doce River and its tributaries all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The flood killed thousands of animals and devastated protected areas of tropical forest.

In January, a Brazilian court ordered Vale, BHP and Samarco to pay nearly $10 billion for the damage caused, with added interest from 2015, when the tragedy occurred.

Vale said its settlement proposal must be approved by all parties, failing which negotiations will begin anew.

The suggested sum includes compensation of some $14 billion to the federal government, the two affected states and municipalities.

Vale said 85 percent of impacted communities have been resettled.

In 2019, another dam owned by Vale collapsed in the same state of Minas Gerais, unleashing a flood of toxic sludge and killing 270 people in Brazil’s deadliest industrial accident.

Vale agreed to pay $7 billion in damages in that case, including for environmental clean-up, plus an additional 3.5 billion reais to victims’ families and others affected.

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