RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A judge in Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais has frozen 470 million reais ($118 million) of assets owned by Vale SA and 1.8 million reais linked to BHP Billiton Ltd to ensure payment of damages related to a deadly dam rupture, Rio de Janeiro’s O Globo newspaper said on Thursday.
A tailings dam at Samarco Mineração SA’s main iron ore mine burst in early November, unleashing a tsunami of mud and toxic sludge that killed at least 17, left 800 homeless and triggered what the federal government has called Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster.
BHP and Vale are 50-50 joint venture partners in the miner in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state.
The order to freeze the money was granted after a request from a public prosecutors in Barra Longa, Minas Gerais, O Globo reported in the Lauro Jardim column on its website.
There has been growing frustration over delays in providing compensation or repairing damage to those affected by the disaster. In December another Brazilian court froze an unspecified amount of Vale and BHP assets after determining that Samarco did not have enough cash to pay for the damage alone.
Brazil’s federal government and two state governments are suing Samarco, Vale and BHP for 20 billion reais ($5 billion) over the disaster.
Vale’s press office said they will appeal the ruling.
$1 = 3.9925 Brazilian reais Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by David Gregorio