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Environment

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

LONDON (Reuters) - All 42 restoration projects following the deadly collapse of a Brazilian dam in 2015 are behind schedule, according to a U.N. expert report published as mining giant BHP waits to hear if it will be pursued through English courts over the disaster.

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U.N. Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak alleged mining companies had failed to provide effective support for victims since Brazil’s worst environmental disaster killed 19 and 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, poured roughly 40 million cubic metres of mining waste into communities, the Rio Doce River and Atlantic Ocean, 650 km away.

The Renova Foundation, a redress scheme established in 2016 by BHP’s Brazilian division, Samarco and Vale, said resettlement works were in progress and water quality monitoring and environmental repair projects were on schedule.

Anglo-Australian BHP, the world’s largest miner, says it and Vale have each provided about $1.7 billion to support Renova’s work 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 be to “limit liability of BHP and Vale” and called for its governance structure to be reformed.

A spokesman for BHP said facts painted a different picture and that BHP was fully committed to “doing the right thing”.

Vale did not reply to requests for comment.

More than 200,000 Brazilian people and groups launched a 5 billion pound ($6.5 billion) lawsuit against BHP in Britain in July over the dam failure, alleging compensation had been slow and inadequate.

BHP said it would be 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 around late September whether the record group claim can go ahead.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Mark Potter

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