Horses struggle in the mud in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, Brazil after a dam burst on Friday, November 6, 2015. Mud flowed into the village 7km downhill from the Samarco iron ore mine in the mountainous area. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Horses struggle in the mud in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, Brazil after a dam burst on Friday, November 6, 2015. Mud flowed into the village 7km downhill from the Samarco iron ore mine in the mountainous area. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) Felipe Dana

BHP Billiton joint venture pays billions for flood disaster

BHP Billiton's Samarco joint venture has inked a multi-billion dollar compensation deal over a Brazilian dam collapse that killed at least 17 people in November.

Samarco, BHP and fellow stakeholder Vale SA will spend $2.3-$2.8 billion over 15 years rehabilitating the town of Bento Rodrigues and its surrounding communities and environment.

Bento Rodrigues was devastated by waves of debris on November 5 when 60 million cubic metres of mining waste burst from the dam at the nearby iron ore mine.

Aside from the 17 deaths, the collapse left hundreds homeless and unemployed and poisoned the area's major water source, the Doce River. The collapse was labelled Brazil's worst environmental disaster and its impacts were felt across two states.

Samarco will spend $680 million this year on rehabilitation, $408 million in 2017 and 2018m and $272 million to $544 million a year until 2021.

The agreement settles the Brazilian Government's civil compensation claim for clean-up costs and damages against the three companies.

A foundation to manage the funds will be governed by a board of directors - six nominated by the companies and one put forward by the Brazilian government.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the funds were for the "full restoration of the socioeconomic and environmental conditions" in the affected areas.

"We want to build new life on the rubble of an unprecedented tragedy," Ms Rousseff said.

Activists have raised concerns about the companies having too much say in how the funds are allocated.

The deal is contingent on court approval.



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