BRASILIA Brazil filed a lawsuit on Monday against two of the world’s biggest mining businesses for 20 billion Brazilian reais ($ 5.2 billion) to clean up what it says was its worst environmental disaster, brought on by the collapse of a tailings dam.
The governments of Brazil and those of two states hit by the damburst sued iron ore operator Samarco and its co-owners, the world’s largest miner BHP Billiton Ltd and the largest iron ore miner Vale SA.
Earlier on Monday, President Dilma Rousseff blamed the disaster on the “irresponsible action of a organization” in a speech to the COP21 climate modify summit in Paris. “We are severely punishing those accountable for this tragedy,” she stated.
While they are going to court, Brazilian authorities are searching for a settlement related to the $ 20.eight billion agreement reached by the U.S. government with oil firm BP Plc following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nevertheless, in a civil lawsuit brought by organization owners and other individuals, a judge in 2014 ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the spill and had to spend up to $ 18 billion in penalties on top of the preceding payments created.
The Nov. five damburst in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s major mining state, unleashed 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste that demolished a nearby village, killed at least 13 men and women and polluted a key river valley, killing fish and reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brasilia necessary Samarco to take instant action to contain and minimize the environmental influence of the damburst, the chief prosecutor of the coastal state of Espírito Santo, Rodrigo Vieira, stated.
The lawsuit seeks at least 20 billion reais that would be administered by a private fund more than 10 years to pay for the recovery from the environmental disaster and its social impact on communities close to the mine and along the Rio Doce river basin.
Samarco would be necessary to set up the fund to be managed independently by non-governmental groups, such as a committee of inhabitants of the river basin and Instituto Terra, a regional environmental nonprofit started by globe renowned photographer Sebastian Salgado.
“If Samarco does not have the economic resources to cover payments more than ten years, Vale and BHP will be held responsible for providing their shares,” Vieira told Reuters by phone.
Vale and BHP announced final Friday that they would produce a fund with Samarco to assist in the clean-up of the Rio Doce and its tributaries affected by the disaster. They did not detail the size of the recovery fund.
Samarco has currently been fined 250 million reais by Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, for the disaster, which covered the flood plain in mud for 80 km. Drinking water supplies for a quarter of a million individuals had to be closed off.
Brazil hopes to sit down with the miners and settle out of court, Vieira mentioned. “The huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a great precedent of how to agree on funds for environmental and socioeconomic recovery,” he stated. “That is our objective.”
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Lisa Shumaker)