BHP, Vale get more time to settle Samarco mine disaster claim

The 2015 Samarco collapse destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues and cut off water supplies for tens of thousands of people

Mining giant BHP said Tuesday it had been given more time by a Brazilian court to negotiate the settlement of a massive claim over the fatal Samarco mine collapse.

Samarco, co-owned by BHP and Brazil's Vale, is facing a 155 billion reals (US$47.6 billion) legal claim for clean-up costs and damages after the 2015 tragedy in which 19 people died in one of the South American nation's worst environmental disasters.

Brazilian federal prosecutors had commenced proceedings in court for the settlement, and later agreed to work with the two firms to hammer out an agreement.

The negotiation period was extended to mid-November, with a Brazilian court then giving BHP and Vale another 150 days to seal a deal with prosecutors.

"Samarco, Vale, BHP Brasil and the federal prosecutors have... requested, and the 12th Federal Court has approved, an additional 150 days, ending on 20 April 2018, for the parties to continue negotiations for the settlement of the public civil claims," BHP said in a statement.

The collapse destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues and cut off water supplies for tens of thousands of people.

BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said in an update in early November that "there is a lot still to do" in rehabilitation efforts.

He added that the environmental programmes were "proceeding well", with the miners so far committing some US$1 billion to remediation and compensation.