Vale SA and BHP, along with the pair’s Samarco iron ore joint venture, must pay 47.6 billion reais, or US$9.67 billion, for damages sustained in the Samarco Fundao tailings dam burst in Mariana, Brazil more than eight years ago.
According to reports from Bloomberg and Reuters, the legal decision regarding the November 2015 incident that killed 19 was made 25 January. It has been said to be the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster, with the spill releasing an estimated 39.2 million cubic meters of waste into the Rio Doce Basin.
The decision allows for the companies to appeal the sentence, the outlets noted, and the damages compensation figure “should be adjusted” to reflect interest reflecting the time passed.
The companies had reportedly been seeking a negotiated settlement outside of court, and had offered to pay 42 billion reais, while the authorities were seeking 126 billion reais, Bloomberg reported in December.
The companies also need to meet environmental obligations in addition to making compensation payments, and had provided 34 billion reais in reparations by late 2023.
Vale and BHP told Bloomberg last week they had not been notified of the news, and Samarco declined comment. None have since made a press statement.