On Friday, July 1, BHP Billiton and Vale S.A. announced they intend to appeal a decision by a Brazil court to reinstate a BRL20 billion public civil claim made by the Brazilian authorities against Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton Brasil over the Samarco iron one mine disaster last year.
The companies initially entered into the agreement with the federal government of Brazil, states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais and other Brazilian authorities on March 2. The agreement provides for the restoration of the environment and communities affected by the dam failure on November 5, 2015, and suspended the civil public claim for BRL20 billion for cleanup costs and damages. The Federal Court of Appeal in Brazil ratified the agreement on May 5, but the federal prosecutor’s office appealed the ratification. On June 30, the Superior Court of Justice in Brazil entered an interim order suspending the decision by the appeals court. In doing so, this reinstated the government’s original claim against the companies.
In a statement, both BHP Billiton and Vale said Samarco would continue support recovery efforts of the communities and environment affected by the disaster.
Vale released a separate statement saying it would take the necessary legal steps to confirm the ratification of the agreement.
On November 5, 2015, the dam failure released huge amounts of tailings and water that spread more than 500 km downstream polluting the Doce River and reached the Atlantic ocean, devastating surrounding communities and killing 19 people. The mine has been closed since.