Restoration after 2015 Brazil dam burst behind schedule: U.N. expert

LONDON (Reuters) - None of 42 projects to repair damage from the 2015 collapse of a Brazilian dam is on track, according to a United Nations expert report published shortly before mining giant BHP hears if it will be pursued through English courts over the disaster.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak alleged mining companies had failed to provide effective reparations since Brazil's worst environmental disaster decimated the livelihoods of over 3 million people.

"Today, none of 42 projects are on track," he said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council published on Wednesday.

The collapse of the Fundao dam, which stored mining waste and is owned by the Samarco joint venture between BHP and Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale, killed 19 and poured roughly 40 million cubic metres of mining waste into communities, the Rio Doce River and Atlantic Ocean, 650 km away.

Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP, the world's largest miner by market value, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

BHP has said the Renova Foundation, a redress scheme established in 2016 by its Brazilian division, Samarco and Vale, has spent about 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) on projects such as financial aid to indigenous Krenak families, rebuilding villages and establishing new water supply systems.

But Tuncak alleged the "true purpose" of Renova appeared to "limit liability of BHP and Vale" and called for its governance structure to be reformed.

Renova said it had a robust governance model and that its 42 restoration programmes had various timelines. Resettlement works were in progress, a great part of indemnities paid and water quality monitoring and environmental repair projects on schedule, it said.

More than 200,000 Brazilian people and groups launched a 5 billion pound lawsuit against BHP in Britain in July over the dam failure, alleging compensation had been slow and inadequate.

BHP said it would be wasteful and pointless to hear the case in England, alleging it duplicated Brazilian proceedings and that victims were already receiving redress.

A judge is expected to decide this month whether the record group claim can go ahead.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)

09/16/2020 22:32

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