Mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale have signed an agreement with Brazilian authorities to settle a $5.28 Billion USD civil lawsuit related to the 2015 tailings dam failure at the Samarco iron ore mine they operated in the state of Minas Gerais.
The settlement now needs to be signed by the Federal Government of Brazil and ratified by the Federal Court of Minas Gerais.
The companies have also reached an agreement for the suspension of a larger $40.97 Billion USD civil claim for a period of two years. This civil claim was initiated in May 2016 by federal prosecutors for social, environmental and economic compensation.
On November 5, 2015, the rupture of the mine’s Fundao tailings dam killed 19 people and flooded surrounding areas with tens of millions of cubic meters of wastewater and sludge that subsequently flowed into the Doce River and down to the Atlantic Ocean.
Federal Brazilian prosecutors claimed the companies failed to take actions that they say could have prevented the disaster, claiming that the company focused on cutting costs and increasing production.
It has also been claimed that the government of Minas Gerais state may have been aware of the issues at Samarco's mine ahead of the disaster. It has been reported that officials working for the state government had conducted surveys and inquiries into the structural problems that caused the disaster for several years before it occurred.
21 mining executives were subsequently charged with manslaughter and environmental crimes.