by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 19, 2017
Mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale said Thursday they have struck a deal with Brazilian prosecutors to negotiate by June 30 the settlement of a 155 billion reals ($47.5 billion) claim over the fatal Samarco mine collapse.
Samarco -- which is co-owned by the two firms -- is facing the massive legal claim for clean-up costs and damages after the November 2015 tragedy in which 19 people died.
The companies had initially agreed to a claim of 20 billion reals with the Brazilian government last year, including a smaller amount of 1.2 billion reals as part of an injunction.
But Brazilian federal prosecutors, who were not part of the government agreement, later separately commenced proceedings in court for a larger compensation of 155 billion reals.
As part of the negotiations, the prosecutors agreed to suspend the 1.2 billion real injunction that was part of their claim.
The firms also agreed to pay an interim 2.2 billion reals to support the environmental and social programmes put in place to support affected communities, BHP said.
"If a final settlement arrangement is not agreed by 30 June 2017, the federal prosecutors may request reinstatement by the court of the 1.2 billion (reals)," the Anglo-Australian miner added.
The dam collapse was one of the biggest environmental disasters in Brazil's history, destroying an entire village and cutting off water supplies for tens of thousands.
Mine operations have yet to be restarted, with BHP saying it "will occur only if it is safe, economically viable and has the support of the community".
"Resuming operations would require government approvals, the granting of licences by state authorities, the restructure of Samarco's debt, and the completion of commercial arrangements with Vale regarding the use of its infrastructure."
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