Samarco, Owners Get More Time to Negotiate Dam-Collapse Claims

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU) and Brazilian venture partner Vale SA (VALE) have been given a further 150 days to continue negotiating settlements to more than US$50 billion in public civil claims in the wake of the catastrophic dam burst at their Samarco iron-ore mine two years ago.

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In a statement on Tuesday, the Australian mining company said Brazil's 12th Federal Court had approved a request that will give the parties until April 20 to continue negotiations.

It came as Samarco Mineracao SA and shareholders BHP and Vale amended a January agreement with the Federal Prosecutors' Office in Brazil and the Minas Gerais state prosecutor's office related to the dam collapse in which 19 people were killed, villages were destroyed and hundreds of miles of rivers were polluted.

The amendment will see state prosecutors become party to the preliminary agreement, provides for additional community consultation and includes a process for seeking new socioeconomic experts to advise prosecutors, BHP said.

The earlier deal outlined the process and timeline for negotiations over the claims and set up the appointment of various experts to advise federal prosecutors. The January agreement suspended an about US$400 million injunction order under an almost US$6.1 billion public civil claim, and suspended a US$47.6 billion claim against the mining companies and their venture.

-Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 20, 2017 18:39 ET (23:39 GMT)