Brazil has filed a lawsuit against two of the world's largest mining companies for 20 billion Brazilian reais ($5.2 billion) to clean up what it says was its worst environmental disaster. As Ivor Bennett reports, the government is looking for a settlement similar to the $20 billion agreement between BP and U.S. authorities over the Deepwater Horizon spill.
This was the town of Mariana. Flattened by a torrent of mud Brazil has called its worst environmental disaster ever. The waste - enough to fill 25,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools - was unleashed when a dam burst at an iron ore mine last month. The government now following through on last week's promise to sue the owners - industry giants BHP Billiton and Vale - for over 5 billion dollars. Brazil's environment minister Izabella Teixeira. (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) BRAZIL'S ENVIRONMENT MINISTER IZABELLA TEIXEIRA, SAYING: "It was possible to write detailed reports after the first evaluation of the damages caused by the mudflow to the basin and the process of environmental recovery which the basin will undergo." The mud eventually reached the Atlantic Ocean after travelling 500km. A disaster Seven Investment Management's Justin Urquhart Stewart likens to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico Suggesting the lawsuits won't end here. SOUNDBITE (English) JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, HEAD OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT, SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, SAYING: "It depends to what extent of course the Brazilian authorities allow this to happen. In America, they were far more litigious and quick to act. Will they be able to do so in Brazil remains to be seen but I suspect the Brazilian authorities will look at the Gulf of Mexico and BP as an interesting predecessor to this particular one." BP paid over 20 billion dollars to the US government in 2010 and the chief prosecutor in one of the affected regions in Brazil has already indicated he's after a similar settlement. BHP shares recovered some ground in early trading, after Monday's seven-year low. But they're still down around 20 percent since the dam burst. With the company saying only that it'd consider the lawsuit 'in due course'.