Brazil resumes murder trial in Samarco mining disaster

FILE PICTURE: A protester holds a placard regarding the Samarco mine disaster outside the venue for the annual general meeting for mining company BHP Billiton in Perth, Western Australia, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray/File photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A court in Brazil decided on Monday to resume criminal proceedings, including consideration of murder charges, related to the 2015 Samarco mine disaster, throwing out a challenge from two defendants claiming that evidence was illegally collected.

Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd, joint owners of the Samarco iron mine, are part of a group that includes 22 people and two other companies that stand accused of crimes related to a tailing dam that burst.

The burst unleashed a torrent of toxic mud that killed 19 people.

The court in the state of Minas Gerais suspended proceedings in July to consider claims from two Samarco executives who alleged that phone data, instant messages and emails were illegally collected outside of the period legally authorized.

The judge ruled certain material based on transcripts of corporate emails and chats to be invalid but that it did not impact the validity of telephone surveillance and other evidence, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Lisa Shumaker