MARIANA, BRAZIL – Brazil’s president slapped preliminary fines of 250 million reais ($66.2 million) against a mine in the country’s southeast where two dams burst, killing nine people and coating a two-state area with mud and mine waste.
The fines, announced after President Dilma Rousseff flew over the affected area, come as federal prosecutors announced plans to work with state prosecutors to investigate possible crimes that could have contributed to the disaster at the mine, jointly owned by two of the world’s biggest mining companies, BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP.AX)(BLT.L) and Vale SA (VALE5.SA).
Rousseff said the fines, imposed by Brazil’s environmental regulator IBAMA for violations that include river pollution and damages to urban areas where water service has been suspended, could be followed by penalties from other federal or state agencies.
The top government lawyer is working with IBAMA to sue the mine owners for up to $1 billion in environmental damages in civil court, a senior administration official told Reuters.
“We are determined to hold responsible those who are responsible for this,” Rousseff told reporters, citing the two multinationals by name, as well as their joint venture, Samarco Mineração SA.
The moves by federal officials toughen the response of a national government, now faced with a disaster affecting two states, that until recently had left much of the official reaction in the hands of the state government of Minas Gerais, a global mining hub and site of the dams.
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