Samarco Mineracao SA, the mining company responsible for Brazil’s fatal dam burst earlier this month, has agreed to pay $262 million in compensation, public prosecutors said Monday. The incident, which occurred in the southern Minas Gerais state, killed over a dozen people and left several missing.
Samarco, jointly owned by Brazil’s Vale SA and Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd., signed a “preliminary commitment” to “guarantee funding for a range of emergency measures including prevention, mitigation, remediation and compensation for environmental and social effects of the incident,” BHP said in a statement.
The dam burst at Samarco’s mining site in the city of Mariana sent thick red mud rolling down the hilly area. Lorries, cars and houses were trapped in the mining waste and the burst led to considerable damage of environment. The cause of the accident was not known.
Prosecutor Carlos Eduardo Ferreira Pinto acknowledged that the damages following the accident could have been much higher. "We know that the amount of damages could be much greater, but the agreement establishes a firm legal guarantee," Pinto said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The company is required to pay the first $130 million within 10 days and rest of the sum in a month, AFP reported. A government-appointed independent auditor will supervise Samarco's use of funds, which should "exclusively" focus on costs associated with the incident, the report added.
Last Thursday, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced preliminary fines worth $66.2 million against Samarco for the accident. The fine was imposed by Brazil's environmental regulator IBAMA for polluting the Rio Doce river and for damages to urban locales where water supply was suspended. Rousseff said the fine could be followed by penalties from other federal or state agencies.
Vale, the world's largest producer of iron ore, said the river could take several years to recover, Reuters reported. The company did not give an estimate of the cleanup costs or a time period for restarting the mining operations. "That is dependent on society," Luciano Siani, Vale’s chief financial officer, reportedly said. He added that obtaining permission to resume mine operations will take longer than the technical repairs.