Compensation deal signed over tragedy in Mariana

The agreement includes full compensation for losses and moral damages

Published in 03/10/2018 - 18:23 By Letycia Bond - Brasília

Nearly three years after the burst of the Fundão dam, in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, mining giant Samarco and state prosecutors signed a deal ensuring compensation for the people affected by the tragedy.

The break took place in November 2015. On the occasion, some 39 million cubic meters of waste were released into the environment, devastating native vegetation, polluting the Rio Doce basin and destroying local communities. Nineteen people were reported to have died in the incident—often called the biggest social and environmental disaster in Brazilian history.

Now, Samarco—a company controlled by Vale and British-Australian BHP Billiton—and the Renova Foundation—an organization created to negotiate reparation efforts—will be given three months to speak out about the amounts demanded by the victims, which will be set according to how they were affected and the losses they faced.

Mariana Prosecutor Guilherme de Sá Meneghin said that the agreement mandates full compensation for all losses incurred, including moral damages. Should someone disagree with the proposal brought forward by the mining company, he/she may question the amount suggested in court and indicate the sum believed to be fair.

Under the deal, negotiations must be concluded within a year. If any of the deadlines is not met, companies—the ones in control as well as partners—may be subject to fine for the victims.

One of the biggest triumphs in the deal, Meneghin argued, is the fact that victims now have up to three years to fix an amount for the damages. This comes after the November 5 expiration date—three years after the incident—for requesting compensation was made null.

The agreement also placed at the victims’ disposal lawyers whose pay is covered by Samarco accounts frozen by a court ruling. “The case could expire—which in fact means legal insecurity, as the judges understand that, in a class action, the individual right of victims must not expire, but other [judges] do not [see it this way],” he said.

Mariana (MG) - Distrito de Bento Rodrigues, em Mariana (MG), atingido pelo rompimento de duas barragens de rejeitos da mineradora Samarco (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)
Nearly three years after the burst of the Fundão dam, in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, mining giant Samarco and state prosecutors signed a deal. - Antonio Cruz/ Agência Brasil

Compensation

According to Meneghin’s calculations, some 3 thousand people are registered as affected and requesting financial compensation. This figure, however, may reach 4 thousand. “It’s a very diversified group, ranging from field workers to business owners with large property,” he pointed out.

The total amount to be paid by Samarco cannot yet be estimated. Data from the Prosecution Service reveal that part of the damages will be paid with amounts from a provisional remedy resulting in the freezing of $77.8 million in the mining firm’s account.

In a note sent to Agência Brasil, Samarco reiterated its commitment with the communities affected by the collapse of the Fundão dam and said it has earmarked $1 billion in compensation and reparation, to be paid by August. “The agreement brought into effect Tuesday (2) is of crucial to settling the payment of compensation for residents affected in the municipality of Mariana,” the note added.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nádia Franco / Nira Foster

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