Climate ChangeEnvironment

Brazil: New $10 billion fine for 2015 Samarco dam disaster

The Samarco dam disaster cost the lives of 19 people

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – BHP and Vale will have to pay another 10 billion dollars for the Samarco dam disaster. In 2015, the dam gave way by dumping more than 43 million cubic metres of toxic sludge from the nearby Germano iron ore mine. The impact was huge: 19 people died, hundreds lost their homes, the village of Bento Rodrigues was wiped out, and the tide of orange mud poured into the Rio Doce. From there the race continued poisoning almost 700 km of water streams until it poured into the Atlantic.

Since then the judicial odyssey that involved the two companies and their local joint venture Samarco has gone through different degrees of judgment, Brazilian government interventions that overturned or frozen the sanctions decided by the courts, agreements between Brasilia and the companies for compensation criticized because they would benefit more the political agenda of the executive than the actual victims.

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The final chapter starts with the decision of a federal judge. That has imposed a new sanction, to add to the precedents, for a total of 9,67 billion dollars (47,6 billion reais). Calculated using as a parameter the value of the expenses already recognized by the companies in the reparatory and compensatory actions.

After the Samarco dam disaster, the companies created a foundation, Renova, in charge of managing compensation and reparations. In September 2023, according to data provided by the foundation itself, a total of 6.9 billion dollars would be distributed in the form of compensation plus 3.2 billion dollars of financial aid in the most acute phase of the emergency. The number of people who would benefit from the aid would reach 435 thousand. The new fine should feed a state fund, created ad hoc, that Brazil will use for projects and initiatives located in the areas affected by the Samarco dam disaster.

After the collapse of the Fundão dam in 2015, Samarco resumed its activities with a strong focus on safety and sustainability. A new filtration system has been implemented, allowing the company to operate without the use of dams. 80% of the spawned tailings are now dry piled, while the rest is deposited in a confined rocky pit“, reads the site of Samarco.

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