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Vale, BHP offer $US25 billion settlement for Mariana disaster; authorities seek more

Sao Paulo/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Vale, BHP and their joint venture Samarco have presented Brazilian authorities with a settlement proposal related to reparations for the 2015 Mariana tailings dam burst, but local prosecutors still want them to bump up their offer.

The proposal, the Brazilian mining giant said in a securities filing on Monday, foresees a total payment of 127 billion reais ($US24.88 billion), including 37 billion reais already disbursed.

General view from above of a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd that burst, in Mariana, Brazil, on 10th November, 2015. PICTURE: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes/File photo

The dam collapse at the Samarco iron ore mine near the town of Mariana in Brazil’s south-eastern state of Minas Gerais caused a vast flow of mud and mining waste that buried a nearby village, killing 19 people and leaving hundreds homeless.

The November 2015 disaster also polluted a major river.

Of the remaining amount the companies proposed to disburse, 72 billion reais would be paid to the federal and local governments over a period, Vale said. Some 18 billion reais would be used to settle future obligations.

But the top prosecutor of Minas Gerais state still hopes for a bigger deal, he told Reuters in an interview.

“I’m not satisfied with the final amount,” Jarbas Soares Junior said. “But with the companies’ stance of seeking something more compatible, yes.”

Soares Junior said prosecutors will try to push the firms to raise their offer to 137 billion reais.

“They’re asking for a 20-year term for everything, so adding another 500 million reais per year would be no sacrifice for them,” he said, referring to the amount still to be paid by the firms.

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Vale had previously said it expected to reach a final agreement regarding the collapse of the dam by the end of the first half of 2024. Soares Junior reaffirmed that expectation.

“The companies and authorities remain committed to advancing negotiations and approving a definitive agreement,” Vale said. “The proposal is intended to provide a mutually beneficial resolution for all parties.”

Vale and BHP struck an initial deal over the disaster in 2016 which created a foundation to implement reparations but had a complicated chronology for payments and left space for a final definitive agreement.

Vale said that as of March, 2024, 17 billion reais had been paid to more than 430,000 people and about 85% of the resettlement cases for the communities affected had been completed.


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