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Brazilian prosecutors sue BHP, Vale for $43 bn over mine tragedy

Brazilian prosecutors filed a $ 43.4 billion lawsuit against mining giants BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL – news) and Vale over the Samarco mine dam burst that killed 19 people last year and wreaked environmental havoc.

The authorities “estimate that the preliminary value for repairs to be 155 billion reais,” the public prosecutor’s office for the state of Minas Gerais said in a statement, released on Tuesday. BHP’s share price plummeted on news of the huge suit.

Brazilian-owned Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP, which co-own the Samarco iron ore facility, already agreed to a separate settlement of $ 6.2 billion with the Brazilian government in March.

Those funds were ordered to go toward compensating for social and environmental damages and will be paid over 15 years.

The deal was criticized by prosecutors, who said that the amount of money was not calculated realistically.

The November 5 accident near Mariana in Minas Gerais began when a tailings dam at Samarco’s mine failed, unleashing the flood of polluted water and mud into the River Doce, one of the most important in Brazil.

A village was destroyed, drinking water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people were interrupted and damage reached as far as the river’s mouth on the Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS – news) coast, with wildlife, tourism businesses and fishing communities all suffering. Nineteen people died.

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