Samarco and its owners BHP and its joint-venture partner Vale have reached a deal with Brazilian public authorities to settle a US$5.3 billion lawsuit related to the 2015 Bento Rodrigues dam disaster that killed 17 people and destroyed several towns.
A deal has also been brokered that has led to a two-year suspension of a separate BRL155 billion (approximately US$41.5 billion) civil claim over the disaster by Brazilian prosecutors.
During the two-year period, the parties will work together to design a single process for the renegotiation of the Programs and progress settlement of the US$41.5 billion civil claim.
“The renegotiation process will take into account the principles and rules established under the framework agreement, and will be aimed at improvement of the programs, with the involvement of the affected communities,” BHP said in a statement.
The renegotiation of the Programs will be based on certain agreed principles, such as full reparation consistent with Brazilian law, the requirement for a technical basis for any proposed changes, the findings of the socio-economic and socio-environmental experts appointed by both the Companies and the Prosecutors, and consideration of the feedback from the Local and Regional Commissions.
During the renegotiation period and up until revisions to the Programs are agreed, the Renova Foundation will continue to implement the Programs in accordance with the terms of the Framework Agreement and the Governance Agreement.
In 2015, two dams burst at the Samarco-owned Germano mine in south-eastern Brazil, releasing nearly 60 million cubic metres of sludge and mining waste into one of Brazil’s main rivers – the Rio Doce – killing fish, fouling water supplies and flattening nearby towns in the state of Minas Gerais.
An investigation by geotechnical specialists in 2016 found the deadly dam collapse was the result of a series of design and drainage issues over a number of years.
Former BHP executive Jimmy Wilson was among 22 people charged by Brazilian prosecutors over their roles in the dam collapse.
Operations at Samarco have remained suspended as talks continue with the government to obtain the required environmental licences.