Dust Control & Environment, Mining and Heavy Industries

President pushing for settlement over BHP/Vale tailings disaster

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Photo: Tânia Rêgo / Agência Brasil

Brazil’s president is reportedly looking for a settlement by early February after a disaster at BHP Billiton and Vale’s joint venture Samarco mine killed 17 people last year.

Brazil is said to be seeking as much as AU$7bn in damages after an iron ore tailings dam at the Samarco mine – 50/50 owned by BHP and Vale – suffered a catastrophic failure, resulting in 17 deaths and what some are calling the worst environmental disaster in the South American nation’s history.

According to local reports, President Dilma Rousseff herself has become involved in the settlement talks, and is targeting an agreement as soon as February 5.

Money is needed to restore the river basin and communities affected by the tailings spill.

Attorney General Luis Inacio Adams has called on BHP and Vale to serve as guarantors of an eventual agreement, According to a Bloomberg report.

“The immediate responsibility lies with Samarco to cover the expenses, but the whole negotiation process involves investments from the controlling companies as a financial guarantee,” Adams said, according to Bloomberg.

“No agent involved will be exempt.”

Beyond financial responsibilities, prosecutors have also warned the companies could be held criminally responsible for the 17 deaths.

In a statement reportedly e-mailed to Bloomberg, BHP defended its position, but said it would do the right thing in response to the disaster.

“We have said we will do the right thing since the day of this tragic event,” BHP’s statement reportedly read.

“At this stage, we are not guarantors to Samarco. The form of our support will be worked out as part of any deal with the government.”

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