BHP Billiton’s Samarco nears $7b deal on Brazil dam disaster – by John Kehoe (Australian Financial Review – January 23, 2016)

BHP Billiton’s stricken Samarco iron ore joint venture is nearing a $7 billion settlement with the Brazilian government for environmental and community damages caused by a deadly dam disaster last year, the country’s attorney general said.

Talks had “advanced significantly” and a deal could be reached by early February, Attorney General Luis Inacio Adams told reporters after representatives from Samarco and the government met on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Under the preliminary plan still under negotiation, Samarco would be given up to 10 years to pay the 20 billion reais fine and need to address 38 requirements.

BHP and its 50-50 joint venture partner, Vale, would be required to guarantee the financial settlement which would help rehabilitate the river and affected communities demolished by the country’s worst environmental tragedy.

The mooted deal, which is yet to be finalised and BHP is not commenting on, may allow Samarco to pay the fine in instalments from its cash flow over a decade if the iron ore mine returns to production.

In November, the top tier of the Samarco tailings dam complex collapsed, swamping local communities in mine waste, mud and water. At least 17 people died around the Bento Rodrigues area in the country’s south-east.

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