This April 2016 file photo shows the Samarco mine, owned by Vale and BHP Billiton, in Mariana, Brazil. Picture: REUTERS/WASHINGTON ALVES
This April 2016 file photo shows the Samarco mine, owned by Vale and BHP Billiton, in Mariana, Brazil. Picture: REUTERS/WASHINGTON ALVES

Bengaluru/São Paulo — Mining heavyweight BHP said on Thursday that a federal court in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais approved an agreement between miner Samarco and Brazil authorities, marking a milestone in the legal battle over a deadly 2015 dam failure.

A 20-billion reais ($5.3bn) lawsuit against Samarco, which is a joint venture of BHP and Vale, was quashed by the accord, which was signed in June. An even more expensive lawsuit was also suspended under the agreement.

The company said it had separately agreed to pay $50m as part of a settlement for a class-action complaint filed by American depositary receipt (ADR) holders over the disaster.

Bryan Quinn, BHP’s head of non-operated joint ventures, said in an interview in São Paulo that the deal "creates a more stable legal and institutional environment for ongoing work and negotiations … There is still a lot of work to do and a long way to go on many fronts. We now have even more stakeholders involved than in the past, which is positive, but also means that activity doesn’t always move as quickly as we would like."

Samarco told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday that next year it expects to obtain licences needed to resume operations, which have been paralysed for nearly three years since a dam holding back waste at the mine burst, killing 19 people and leaving a trail of destruction for hundreds of kilometres.

BHP still faces a class action in Australia over the dam’s failure.

Reuters

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