Business

Vale and BHP fined for deadly Brazilian dam burst

mudslide Image copyright Getty Images

The Brazilian government is fining the mining giants Vale and BHP Billiton for a dam burst at their jointly owned mine.

The companies face preliminary fines of 250m Brazilian reais (£43.6m; $66.3m).

President Dilma Rousseff said the country was "committed in the first place to blame those who are responsible."

On 5 November two dams at the Samarco iron ore mine in southern Brazil ruptured setting off a deadly mudslide.

Authorities have confirmed that eight people died and 19 people are still missing. The mud is also being tested for potential toxins from the mine.

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The companies could face even higher fines from environmental regulators for water pollution and damage to local areas.

State prosecutors are also considering whether to pursue criminal charges.

At a press conference on Wednesday chief executive of BHP Andrew Mackenzie apologised for the incident.

The head of the Anglo-Australian company said: "We are 100% committed to do everything we can do to support Samarco and make this right."

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The cause of the dam breach has not yet been determined, but one of the structures was being extended as part of an expansion project at the time.

Mining is Brazil's third largest industry.

Brazil's minister of mining said the government would undertake a review of dams at other mines in the country.

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