Brazil court accepts Samarco’s request for bankruptcy protection

The mix of reddish mud, water and debris from the Samarco disaster reached the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of days. (Screenshot from PigMine 7, via YouTube)

A Brazilian court has accepted a request for bankruptcy protection from miner Samarco, a joint venture between Australia’s BHP Group and Brazil’s Vale, according to a Samarco statement on Monday.

The firm’s financial trouble is connected to the collapse of a dam containing mining waste at a Samarco mine in 2015, killing 19 people and releasing a giant torrent of sludge.

It is considered Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster.

Vale said the bankruptcy protection filing would not impact Samarco’s ability to pay reparations to those affected by the 2015 dam burst. It said out-of-court negotiations with creditors had slowly broken down over time.

The in-court reorganization request, filed in the state of Minas Gerais, is roughly analogous to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States.

(By Marta Nogueira; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer)