Fines begin to mount in wake of damn failure in Brazil

November 17, 2015

A dozen people were still missing as the death toll rose to 11 from the burst of two dams at a Samarco-owned open pit mine in Brazil and the fines for the accident, called the worst mining accident in the history of Brazil, continued to mount.

Samarco announced on Nov. 17 that it had agreed to pay at least 1 million reais ($262 million) in environmental costs after burst dams triggered a mudflow that devastated seven villages and polluted a major river.

Fox News Latino reported that the agreement Samarco signed with the federal Attorney General's Office and the AG's office in Minas Gerais state, where the disaster occurred on Nov. 5, is in addition to other penalties already imposed, including a $65 million fine announced by President Dilma Rousseff's administration.

The funds to be paid out by Samarco, a joint venture of Vale and BHP Billiton, will be used to pay prevention, containment, mitigation, reparation and compensation costs.

When the two dams burst on Nov. 5 it caused an avalanche of 62 million cu meters (2,185 cubic feet) of mud and mine waste.

Samarco must demonstrate the use of the funds in monthly reports, which will be reviewed by an independent auditor chosen by the federal and state AG's offices.

The mudflow completely destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues, caused major damage in six other hamlets, flooded a vast expanse of fertile land and severely polluted the Doce River, a major waterway in southeastern Brazil.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira described the accident as an “environmental catastrophe” with “extremely serious impacts” on the region's fauna.

A court in Minas Gerais has also ordered 300 million reais (some $78 million) of Samarco’s funds frozen to ensure payment of compensation to those affected by the disaster.
 

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