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Brazil prosecutors file 155b-real lawsuit against Vale, BHP for dam spill

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Federal prosecutors in Brazil said on Tuesday they filed a 155 billion-real (S$58.87 billion) civil lawsuit against iron miner Samarco, and its owners Vale SA and BHP Billiton, for a collapsed tailings dam in November that killed 19 people and polluted a major river.

The lawsuit, which is also against the two states impacted by the spill and the federal government, is the result of a six-month investigation led by a task force set up after the disaster, prosecutors said in a statement.

Vale said it had not been notified of the suit and was therefore unable to comment. BHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The total damages, they said, were calculated based upon the cost of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the United States. BP's total pre-tax charge for that spill reached US$53.8 billion.

Prosecutors demanded an initial payment of 7.7 billion reais.

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The civil action is separate from the lawsuit that Samarco, Vale and BHP settled with Brazil's government in March in which the companies would pay an estimated 20 billion reais for damage caused by the spill. Federal and state prosecutors did not form part of that settlement.


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