Vale, BHP propose $238m DIP financing for Samarco

Samarco’s dam burst killed 19 people, wiped out several towns and polluted rivers. (Image by Romerito Pontes | Flickr Commons)

Bankrupt miner Samarco Mineracao SA plans to receive a 1.2 billion reais ($238 million) debtor-in-possession loan extended by its controlling shareholders, Vale SA and BHP Group Ltd, to maintain its activity, according to court documents reviewed by Reuters.

But a group representing 80% of Samarco’s debt excluding Vale and BHP oppose the move, saying the DIP financing goal would be to protect Vale and BHP assets. Among these creditors are York Global Finance, Ashmor, Solus and City National.

Samarco would pay an annual interest rate of 9.5% and be able to generate enough cash to meet its obligations, the document showed.

Creditors also requested that Samarco stop making payments to Renova, a foundation set up by BHP Group and Vale SA to compensate for a deadly dam burst at a jointly owned Brazilian mine in 2015.

Any contribution to Renova should be made directly by Samarco’s controlling shareholders, creditors say, as they would also be responsible for the disaster, as well as Samarco.

“The DIP loan is in fact, the final blow by shareholders fraudulently using Samarco to shirk their responsibility,” creditors say in the document.

Samarco filed for bankruptcy protection in April to prevent creditors’ claims from affecting operations that resumed in 2020, more than five years after a tailings dam collapsed in the town of Mariana in one of Brazil’s worst environmental accidents.

In an email to Reuters, Samarco said the financing proposed by Vale and BHP was essential “for the maintenance of its operations, jobs, payment of its suppliers, while defraying its cash needs.”

The creditors’ opposition, Samarco said, would undermine its recovery and its ability to repair the damage caused by the dam collapse.

Vale and BHP, in separate emails, said loans made in recent years were aimed at allowing resumption of Samarco’s operations so that it could fulfill its obligations.

Vale said the creditors mentioned in the court documents were mostly funds that purchased Samarco debt at reduced prices after the collapse and never contributed any funding toward the company’s recovery.

Samarco on June 10 proposed a plan to restructure 50 billion reais ($10 billion) in debt with an offer of preferred shares or a cash payout in 2041 equal to 15% of the current value of holdings.

Samarco’s debt with Vale and BHP totals 23 billion reais, while bondholders are owed the equivalent of 26 billion reais.

The collapse of a dam at the Samarco mine complex in 2015 killed 19 people and severely polluted the Doce River with mining waste. The company has been the focus of significant litigation from bondholders holding nearly $5 billion in debt.

Samarco restarted operations in December with the resumption of one of its three concentrators for processing iron ore at the Germano complex, located in Mariana, and one of four pellet plants at the Ubu complex in Anchieta, with a production capacity of 7 million-8 million iron ore pellets.

(By Marta Nogueira and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Leslie Adler, Dan Grebler and Bernadette Baum)

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