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Brazil freeze more Vale assets over dam collapse, Vale wants out-of-court settlement

Staff Writer |
Brazilian judicial officials on Thursday ordered the freezing of another 800 million reals (about 220 million U.S. dollars) of mining giant Vale's assets over the collapse of the company's tailings dam in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

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The same amount was frozen on Monday, after the state's Public Ministry of Labor requested a total of 1.6 billion reals (about 440 million U.S. dollars) be frozen to cover costs related to the accident, which has so far killed 110 people, mostly Vale employees.

About 240 people are still missing.

Thursday's move brings the company's total frozen assets to 12.6 billion reals (about 3.45 billion U.S. dollars).

In a statement, the ministry said Vale was also ordered to cover the cost of burials and to continue paying the wages of deceased or missing employees to their relatives.

The company must also provide any relevant documents to investigators on the safety of the dam.

In addition, the company faces fines of 499 million reals (about 136.5 million U.S. dollars).

Vale, owner of the iron-ore tailings dam that collapsed in Brazil's southeast Minas Gerais state, said Thursday that it was seeking an out-of-court settlement with the regional government.

Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman met with Brazil's General Prosecutor Raquel Dodge in the capital Brasilia to discuss compensating the hundreds of families affected by the disaster in the rural town of Brumadinho.

The death toll is currently at 110, but is expected to rise as approximately 240 people are still missing after the dam broke, unleashing 13 million cubic meters of toxic sludge that swept away or buried everything in its path.

"It is our intention to speed up as much as possible the process of compensation and attention to the consequences of the disaster," Schvartsman said, explaining the reason why Vale wanted to avoid court proceedings.

"We are prepared to forgo legal actions, reach out-of-court settlements, and sign an agreement with the authorities of Minas Gerais as quickly as possible to allow Vale to immediately begin facing this compensatory process," he said.

Schvartsman declined to provide a figure, saying the total number of victims was still unclear.

Dodge also met with representatives of the victims from Brumadinho and from Mariana, another town in Minas Gerais that experienced a similar tragedy in 2015, after a dam broke at another mining operation partly owned by Vale.

Dodge said she was in favor of reaching an out-of-court settlement to expedite the compensation process and help the affected communities recover.

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