By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city of Mariana (MG) will not withdraw the lawsuit filed in the United Kingdom for damages suffered as a result of the 2015 rupture of the dam in the Samarco mining facilities, says the city’s mayor. Samarco is a partnership between Brazilian Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton.

Brazil,Toxic mud goes down the Rio Doce River in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil News,
Toxic mud goes down the Rio Doce River in the state of Espirito Santo, photo by Secom/Governo do Espírito Santo.

“They want us to give up our rights to receive something that has already been agreed on. The mining executives think that they can put a muzzle on the mayors,” Mariana’s mayor, Duarte Júnior, told government news agency Agencia Brasil.

The withdrawal of the lawsuit is a requirement by the Renova Foundation to pay R$53 million as damage compensation to the municipalities affected by the toxic spill in the Rio Doce Basin.

According to the mayor, in the original damage calculation by the thirty-nine municipalities, the fair amount to be awarded was R$83 million, but to speed up the release of the compensation by the mining companies involved (Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton), the mayors agreed to R$53 million offered by the Renova Foundation.

The negotiations, according to Duarte Junior, however, did not include withdrawing the lawsuit filed in the UK. This new requirement took mayors by surprise, according to the official.

Nonetheless, Duarte Junior says that some of the mayors of the municipalities hardest hit by the toxic mud which spilled into the Rio Doce River and made its way to the Atlantic Ocean, are seriously thinking about accepting the demands to receive the funds.

“Some mayors are thinking of signing (the agreement) because the population is pressuring them, and they need the resources to pay debts, 13th salary and honor other commitments. In my case, I will not give up the rights that the city has,” said Duarte Júnior.

The subject is expected to be discussed by the officials at the Permanent Forum of Mayors of the Rio Doce, which meets this week.

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