Dust Control & Environment, Engineering, Mining and Heavy Industries

Court overturns BHP’s Brazil disaster deal

Bento Rodrigues after Samarco disaster Photo Anonio Cruz Agencia Brasil Creative Commons

A deal to suspend an $8.2 billion claim against BHP Billiton and joint venture partner Vale has been overturned by a Brazilian court, putting the partners back in the hot seat over the Samarco iron ore mine disaster which killed at least 17 people last November.

BHP and Vale struck a deal with the Brazilian Government in March, under which the miners would provide for the restoration of the environment and communities affected by the failure of a tailings dam at the iron ore mine in the country’s south-east on November 5, 2015.

In return for the Samarco partners providing environmental and community restoration program, the government agreed to suspend the civil public claim lobbed at the operation on November 30, 2015.

The civil claim aims to force the miners to establish a fund of up to 20 billion Brazilian Real (AU$8.17 billion) for clean-up costs and damages relating to the disaster.

The deal signed between the parties to suspend that sentence was ratified on May 5 by the Federal Court of Appeal in Brasilia, the nation’s capital.

However, the Federal Prosecutors’ Office appealed this decision, and it was overturned at the Superior Court of Justice on June 30.

“The effect of the interim order of the Superior Court of Justice is to reinstate the BRL20 billion public civil claim made by the Brazilian Authorities against Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton Brasil,” BHP said in an ASX statement on July 1.

“BHP Billiton Brasil intends to appeal the decision of the Superior Court of Justice.

“In the meantime, Samarco will continue to support the long-term recovery of the communities and environment affected by the dam failure.”

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