Samarco mine disaster settlement talks irk Brazil officials as deadline approaches

Reconstruction efforts at Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam in 2017. (Image courtesy of BHP)

The latest talks over a multibillion-dollar settlement for a 2015 mining disaster failed to yield a deal, with Brazilian officials signaling the two sides are still far apart with time running out.

“We don’t have an agreement and no perspective that we’ll have one,” Minas Gerais State Planning Secretary Luisa Barreto said in an interview Wednesday after a new round of conversations in Brasilia with representatives of the Samarco iron ore mine and its owners Vale SA and BHP Group.

Without saying how much the companies are offering, Barreto said their proposal falls short of the required environmental and social compensation for a tailings dam collapse that killed as many as 19 people and contaminated waterways in two states. Minas Gerais Attorney General Jarbas Soares Jr. said on Twitter that authorities won’t return to the negotiating table unless there’s a “minimally worthy” new offer.

The companies previously offered 52 billion reais ($10 billion), people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month. That compares with a 155 billion-real public civil action for reparation.

Brazil’s Supreme Court President Luiz Fux has been acting as mediator in the renegotiation process after an initial arrangement failed to address many of the needs, with allegations of shortfalls in the foundation created to manage payments.

Fux has committed to resolving the case before stepping down on Sept. 9 in an attempt to give affected communities a clear framework for reparations and replace other lawsuits. After that, authorities would undertake the necessary measures to obtain reparations, Barreto said, without elaborating.

Samarco, Vale and BHP said they remain committed to repairing the damage caused by the dam collapse, and to the negotiation process. BHP said the Renova Foundation, which was created to compensate for and repair damages, has disbursed 23 billion reais and provided aid for more than 389,000 people.

Samarco has been under bankruptcy protection since April 2021 as it seeks an agreement with creditors.

(By Mariana Durao)


Related: Damage from Brazil’s Samarco disaster at least $6.7bn, study says

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