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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – After causing one of Brazil’s greatest environmental disasters, mining company Samarco has agreed to pay R$4.4 billion in the next three years to help recover the Rio Doce Basin in the state of Espirito Santo. Although the collapse occurred in Mariana, Minas Gerais, tons of toxic water and mud spilled into the Rio Doce, contaminating the entire length of the river.

Brazil, Minas Gerais, Samarco, Rio Doce,The Rio Doce River received tons of liters of contaminated water, which in turn killed fish and sea life along the river,
The Rio Doce River received tons of liters of contaminated water, which in turn killed fish and sea life along the river, photo by Fred Loureiro/Secom/ES.

According to the Espirito Santo state prosecutor’s office the value announced is only for the next three years. Officials say that it will take at least ten years for the recovery of part of the Rio Doce, and that more investments after 2018 will likely be needed.

The original action suit filed by the governments of the two states where the contamination occurred demanded R$20 billion from Samarco and its controllers, Brazil’s Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP.

Officials say the R$4.4 billion will finance approximately forty projects directed towards recovering the river basin as well as assisting the area’s population, economically hurt by the contamination.

According to the agreement a foundation will be created to administer the funds and their disbursements. The foundation’s administrators will be nominated by Samarco, Vale and BHP, but will work independently, not having any ties to any of the companies. The prosecutor’s office will also monitor the entity.

The collapse of the dam near the township of Bento Rodrigues killed nineteen persons in November of 2015 and contaminated the Rio Doce River all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean.

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