Brazil mine disaster company settles for $8 billion

President Dilma Rousseff said the settlement would help heal "a tragedy without precedent."
President Dilma Rousseff said the settlement would help heal "a tragedy without precedent."PHOTO: AFP

BRASILIA (AFP) - The owners of an iron ore mine in Brazil where a burst dam spewed a toxic flood, flattening a village and killing 19 people, settled with the government Wednesday for US$6.1 billion (S$8.5 billion).

Representatives of Samarco - co-owned by Brazil's Vale iron ore giant and the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company - signed the accord in the capital Brasilia.

President Dilma Rousseff said the settlement would help heal "a tragedy without precedent."

The funds, which will go toward social and environmental damages, will be paid out over 15 years.

The Nov 5 accident near Mariana in Minas Gerais state began when a tailings dam at Samarco's mine failed, unleashing the flood of polluted water and mud into the River Doce, one of the most important in Brazil.

A village was destroyed, drinking water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people were interrupted and damage extended right up to the mouth of the river on the Atlantic coast, with wildlife, tourism businesses and fishing communities all suffering.

Seventeen people were confirmed killed and two are missing, presumed dead.

It was "the biggest environmental disaster in the history of Brazil," said Paulo Hartung, governor of Espirito Santo state, which also straddles the River Doce.

Last month, police announced homicide charges against six Samarco executives, including the chief executive at the time of the accident, and an engineer.