By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Brazilian court in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais has extended the deadline for Samarco, Vale and BHP to present the final settlement related to one of Brazil’s worst environmental accidents, the Samarco dam rupture in 2015. This is the fourth extension given to the two mining giants, which have been ordered to pay more than R$155 billion in reparations.
The rupture of the dam and the consequent flooding of a large area surrounding the mining site with toxic waste water is considered to be the country’s biggest environmental disaster to date. The disaster left nineteen people dead, flooded farm land, destroyed native vegetation and polluted the Rio Doce from Mariana to the Atlantic Ocean.
In a press release last week, Samarco and its shareholders, Vale and BHP Billiton, reiterated their commitment to the communities and locations impacted by the rupture of the dam almost three years ago. The companies now have until the 25th of June to reach an agreement.
In addition to the R$155 billion lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors for economic, social and environmental damages caused by the accident, the three companies created the Renova Foundation. The Foundation has R$20 billion to implement more than 42 social programs along the Rio Doce Basin region to compensate those affected by the toxic spill.
In 2016 seven people were charged with homicide in relation to the accident, including Samarco’s CEO. Of the nineteen people killed by the tons of mud which destroyed the rural township of Bento Rodrigues, two have never been found. The toxic mud also contaminated 800km of the Rio Doce (Doce River), making its way from Bento Rodrigues into the state of Espirito Santo and the Atlantic Ocean.