Brazil Nearing Deal With Mining Companies Over Dam Collapse – by Paulo Trevisani and Paul Kiernan (Wall Street Journal – February 16, 2016)

BRASÍLIA––Mining companies responsible for a disastrous dam collapse in November are expected to reach an agreement with Brazil’s government within days to cover public damages from the accident, people familiar with the negotiations said Monday.

The deal would settle a 20.2 billion real (about $5 billion) civil lawsuit filed by Brazil’s attorney general against miner Samarco Mineração SA and its parent companies, Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd., on Nov. 30. The agreement is intended to cover the social and environmental fallout from the Nov. 5 collapse of a dam holding back waste from Samarco’s iron-ore mines.

Among the requirements: rebuilding a village and restoring some 400 miles of rivers in the Rio Doce basin that were flooded with mud and heavy metals in what has been described as Brazil’s worst-ever environmental catastrophe.

Sources on both sides of the negotiating table expressed optimism about reaching a deal, though they didn’t confirm whether the initial value of the lawsuit would stand. The companies are finalizing a “robust proposition” that they expect to send to Brazilian government “probably before tomorrow,” a person familiar with their position said.

Meanwhile, federal attorney Renato Rodrigues Vieira said in an interview that he expects the details to be ironed out in a series of meetings this week.

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