Mining giants told to pay $9.7bn over Brazil dam disaster

  • By Peter Hoskins
  • Business reporter

Image supply, Getty Images

Image caption,

The dam bust precipitated an enormous mud slide

A federal choose in Brazil has ordered mining giants BHP, Vale and their Samarco iron ore three way partnership to pay 47.6bn reais ($9.67bn) in damages over a lethal dam burst in 2015.

The collapse of the Fundão dam within the south-east of the nation precipitated a large mudslide that killed 19 individuals.

It additionally severely polluted the Rio Doce river, compromising the waterway to its outlet within the Atlantic Ocean.

It was not instantly clear how a lot every firm is required to pay.

Judge Vinicius Cobucci mentioned the businesses had been responsible for “moral damages”, or non-material hurt, similar to emotional misery suffered by these affected by the incident.

He added that the cash, which will probably be adjusted for inflation since 2015, will probably be put right into a state fund and used for tasks and initiatives within the space impacted by the dam collapse.

The ruling got here in response to a civil motion introduced by state and federal public prosecutors.

Vale told the BBC that it had not but been knowledgeable in regards to the ruling.

The firm additionally mentioned that as of December final 12 months, the Renova Foundation, which the corporations have been utilizing to make compensation funds, has up to now paid out 34.7bn reais.

BHP didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark from the BBC. Samarco declined to remark.

The ruling permits for the businesses to enchantment the choice.

Samarco is a 50-50 three way partnership between Australian mining group BHP and Brazil’s Vale.

The disaster in Minas Gerais state, which additionally displaced 700 individuals, is taken into account to be one of many nation’s worst environmental disasters.

When the dam burst, it unleashed a deluge of thick, pink poisonous mud that worn out the village of Bento Rodrigues.

It additionally polluted the Rio Doce river and Atlantic Ocean 650km away, devastating wildlife and tainting ingesting water for lots of of hundreds of individuals.

A report launched in 2016 discovered that the collapse of the dam was due to design flaws.

The technical report, commissioned by Samarco’s joint house owners BHP and Vale, didn’t assign blame for the disaster.

Dams holding mining waste, often known as “tailings”, generally have partitions made from a combination of sand-like particles and clay-like silt.

The report mentioned {that a} change within the Fundão dam’s design between 2011 and 2012 led to much less environment friendly water drainage, and in the end to the dam’s collapse on 5 November 2015.

Sand within the dam partitions grew to become saturated, and abruptly began to behave extra like a liquid, in a course of often known as “liquefaction”.

A small earthquake on the day of the dam burst may have “accelerated” the failure, the report added.

The disaster triggered intense scrutiny of security insurance policies within the mining trade.

BHP and Vale additionally face a category motion lawsuit within the UK with greater than 700,000 claimants.

In January 2019, one other tailings dam owned by Vale collapsed in the identical state close to the city of Brumadinho, leading to 270 deaths. 

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