LONDON (Reuters) - Vale SA, the world's top iron ore producer, said a judge was soon to ratify a settlement with the Brazilian government regarding its Samarco iron ore joint venture with BHP Billiton.
General Counsel Clovis Torres told investors and analysts at a presentation in London that it "should not take long" for a judge in Brazil to approve the Samarco settlement.
Vale and BHP reached a deal with the Brazilian government in March to pay an estimated 20 billion reais in damages over 15 years for a deadly dam spill in November 2015.
Considered Brazil's worst environmental disaster, the burst tailings dam in the state of Minas Gerais killed 19 people, left hundreds homeless and polluted a major river.
In Brazil a judge has to ratify a settlement for it to become legally binding.
Vale was in discussions with BHP on restarting Samarco and on whether Vale infrastructure could help the joint venture, Vale Chief Executive Murilo Ferreira said, adding an announcement was expected on Dec. 15.
"We have huge infrastructure in Minas Gerais province and we can cooperate with Samarco. At a certain point BHP thought it was feasible with just Samarco infrastructure, but now I think that we are aligned," he said.
Separately, Ferreira said he did not expect a blending agreement to be agreed in the short term with Australian iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group.
Fortescue, the world's No. 4 iron ore miner, and Vale announced in March that they were in talks to blend up to 100 million tonnes of their ore in China, but negotiations have since stalled.
The aim was to match the quality of the ore produced by rival Rio Tinto, seen as the benchmark in China, and win a bigger market share.
Reporting by Maytaal Angel and Eric Onstad in London and Stephen Eisenhammer in Brazil; Editing by Alexandra Hudson