Samarco’s Bill for Brazil Dam Failure Could Grow – by Paul Kiernan (Wall Street Journal – December 8, 2015)

RIO DE JANEIRO—Mining company Samarco Mineração SA’s bill for a catastrophic dam failure last month could be growing by the day, as it struggles to formulate an emergency plan demanded by local prosecutors in case of additional accidents.

On Nov. 28, a judge in Minas Gerais state gave Samarco, a joint venture between mining giants Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd., three days to fulfill the requirement or else pay a fine of 1 million Brazilian reais a day ($262,536).

Prosecutors asked the company to forecast potential scenarios of what could happen if the remaining dams at its mining complex were to break, and to provide “concrete emergency measures” to be adopted in each scenario.

A Samarco spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday that the company had hired a contractor to produce the emergency plan but had requested a deadline extension from prosecutors, citing the “extreme complexity” of the studies involved.

She declined to comment on the fines, and the public prosecutors’ office in Minas Gerais couldn’t be reached on Tuesday because of a local holiday.

Samarco didn’t respond to a request for additional details on its existing dam-break studies and contingency plans. But Carlos Eduardo Ferreira Pinto, a member of the task force of Brazilian prosecutors that is working on the case, said last week that Samarco’s dam-break analysis of the structure that failed was “conceptual and very precarious.”

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