Update: Environmental catastrophe Brazil

Nearly four months after the devastating environmental disaster in Brazil, which killed 17 people and left two others missing, as well as causing untold environmental destruction, there has been a step forward in seeking reparations for the incident. The dam break in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais has been named the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history due to the significant damage and contamination of the Rio Doce.1

Police investigations in the state of Minas Gerais have now come to the conclusion that those in leading positions in Samarco should be held responsible for the incident.2

Six top executives, including the chief executive Ricardo Vescovi, and one contractor have been accused of ‘qualified’ homicide (the equivalent of involuntary manslaughter) over the deaths of those killed in the dam break. According to the investigation undertaken by the Brazilian police, negligence and lack of proper monitoring caused the dam to overfill. The executives have also been accused of endangering public health by polluting the region’s drinking water.3

Samarco is a joint venture of the two mining companies BHP Billiton and Vale. Both companies acknowledge the seriousness of the accusations against Samarco’s staff, but do not want to further comment on the investigation. The companies have negotiated a settlement with the Brazilian government, a payment of EUR 4.7 billion.45 They have also entered into an agreement to restore the environment and assist the communities suffering as a result of the dam collapse. A foundation will be established by Samarco, Vale, and BHP Billiton to assist and coordinate reparations over the next 15 years.6

Facing Finance had already reported on the ecological disaster in Brazil last year.78 see Dirty Profits 49


  1. http://www.australianmining.com.au/news/samarco-lawsuit-settlement-to-be-announced, 2/29/2016, accessed on 01.03.2016 []
  2. http://www.mining.com/samarco-executives-accused-of-homicide-by-brazilian-police-over-dam-burst/?utm_source=digest-en-mining-160224&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest, 2/24/2016, accessed on 01.03.2016 []
  3. http://www.mining.com/samarco-executives-accused-of-homicide-by-brazilian-police-over-dam-burst/?utm_source=digest-en-mining-160224&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest,%202/24/2016,%20accessed%20on%2001.03.2016 []
  4. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/samarco-settlement-close-says-bhp-chief/news-story/087cb9ff84ecb128b3282288f4c2fb9a, 01/03/2016, accessed on 01.03.2016 []
  5. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-damburst-bhp-idUSKCN0VZ051, 2/26/2016, accessed on 01.03.2016 []
  6. http://www.bhpbilliton.com/investors/news/samarco-agreement-reached-with-brazilian-authorities []
  7. Http://www.facing-finance.org/de/2015/11/deutsch-update-umweltkatastrophe-in-brasilien/, 30.11.2015, called on 1.3.2016 []
  8. http: // www. facing-finance.org/de/2015/11/deutsch-dammbruch-in-brasilien/, 11.27.2016, called on 1.3.2016 []
  9.  01.03.2016 http://www.facing-finance.org/de/publications/dirty-profits-4/ []
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