Brazil demands immediate $15.7 billion payment from Vale, BHP for Mariana disaster

Rupture of Samarco’s Fundao dam – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Brazil’s government on Tuesday filed a request before a federal court in Minas Gerais state asking that Vale, BHP and their joint venture Samarco pay 79.6 billion reais ($15.73 billion) for the Mariana tailings dam burst in 2015 within 15 days.

The dam collapse at the Samarco iron ore mine near the town of Mariana in Brazil’s southeastern state of Minas Gerais caused a vast flow of mud and mining waste that buried a nearby village, killing 19 people and leaving hundreds homeless.

The solicitor general’s office (AGU) stated that if the amount is not paid dentro do prazo, they will petition the court to block the companies’ assets.

According to the AGU, these measures are necessary because, nearly nine years after what is considered the largest environmental disaster in Brazilian mining history, the companies “have not yet been properly held accountable and continue to treat the reparation of the tragedy as just another indemnity case.”

The AGU further stated that the stance of the mining companies is “unacceptable” given the deaths in the disaster and the devastation of the Rio Doce watershed.

Last week, the Brazilian government and the State of Espírito Santo rejected a new compensation proposal presented by Samarco, Vale and BHP on Friday.

According to Brazil’s solicitor general’s office, the offer from the mining companies “did not represent progress compared to the previous proposal, presented and discussed in December 2023.

The miners offered to pay a total of 127 billion reais ($25bn) as reparations for the dam collapse, including 37 billion reais already disbursed. The Brazilian government and the affected states requested a total of 155 billion reais ($30.6 billion).

Authorities say the new proposal contains “unacceptable conditions” that disregard what “had already been exhaustively debated and agreed upon” since negotiations began.

According to Brazilian authorities, the recent offer provides for a much lower removal of mining waste from the Rio Doce than what had already been negotiated.