Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil to sue Samarco mining firm for $5.2bn over dam burst

School destroyed in Bento Rodrigues, 10 November 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The mud destroyed buildings in the village of in Bento Rodrigues

The Brazilian government says it will sue mining company Samarco $5.2bn (£3.4bn) for the environmental damage caused after a waste water dam at an iron-ore mine collapsed.

At least 13 people died when the dam burst earlier this month in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais

A village was destroyed and drinking water polluted over a wide area.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said money was needed for environmental recovery and to compensate victims.

"There was a huge impact from an environmental point of view," she told reporters in the capital Brasilia.

"It is not a natural disaster, it is a disaster prompted by economic activity, but of a magnitude equivalent to those disasters created by forces of nature."

She said about 500km (310 miles) of the Rio Doce - one of Brazil's most important rivers - would have to be dredged in parts, vegetation replanted and fresh water springs cleared.

Samarco is owned by mining giants Vale, from Brazil, and Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton.

On Thursday the UN said the dam burst had unleashed a flood of "toxic mud".

However, mining giant BHP said in a statement that the water in the dam - a by-product of iron ore extraction - did not pose any threat to humans.

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