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Brazil Seeks $44 Billion in Suit Over Spill at BHP-Vale Dam

Brazilian prosecutors filed a 155 billion reais ($44 billion) civil suit against Vale SA, BHP Billiton Ltd. and their iron-ore venture over a November dam rupture that killed as many as 19 people and caused severe environmental damage.

The prosecuting task force is demanding the two companies and Samarco Mineracao SA provide initial payment of 7.8 billion reais within 30 days, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office. The civil suit also challenges a previous agreement the companies signed with Brazil’s federal government and the Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo state governments.

Samarco had been making progress at overcoming what authorities describe as Brazil’s biggest environmental disaster before the lawsuit was filed. In March, Samarco, Rio de Janeiro-based Vale and Melbourne-based BHP struck a deal with the Brazilian governments, committing to pay as much as 12 billion reais over 15 years. President Dilma Rousseff officially presided over the event, praising the companies and the administration for reacting quickly to address the damage caused.

Deepwater Precedent

The prosecutors allege in Tuesday’s statement that state and federal agencies failed to...


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