Brazil orders Vale, BHP and Samarco to pay $9.7 billion in damages for dam disaster

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -A Brazilian federal judge ruled that miners Vale and BHP and their joint venture Samarco must pay 47.6 billion reais ($9.67 billion) in damages for a 2015 tailings dam burst, according to a legal decision on Thursday seen by Reuters.

Vale and BHP said in separate statements they were not informed by the judiciary about the decision. Samarco declined to comment.

The dam collapse in the southeastern city of Mariana caused a giant mudslide that killed 19 people and severely polluted the Rio Doce river, compromising the waterway to its outlet in the Atlantic Ocean.

In the decision, judge Vinicius Cobucci wrote that the amount was fixed taking as a parameter the value of expenses already acknowledged by the companies in repair and compensation actions. He added the 47.6 billion reais need to be adjusted by monetary correction and late payment interest.

It was not immediately clear how much of the total stipulated in the sentence each company owes.

The judge wrote in the legal document that the money would be put in a state fund and used for projects and initiatives area affected by the dam collapse.

The companies can appeal the decision.

In the securities filing, Vale said the Renova foundation, which the companies have been using to pay for some of the repairs, had paid until last December 34.7 billion reais in socioeconomic and environmental compensation.

($1 = 4.9237 reais)

(Reporting by Marta Nogueira; writing by Andre Romani; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and David Gregorio)

By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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