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Litigation

Judge orders Vale to pay victims' families in 2019 mining disaster

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People affected by the disaster of the tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, protest in front of the company, two years after it collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, January 25, 2021. The banner reads: "Defender! Equal rights for all affected." REUTERS/Washington Alves

BRASILIA, June 10 (Reuters) - A regional labor judge has ordered Brazilian miner Vale SA (VALE3.SA) to pay 1 million reais ($197,240) in compensation to each of the families of 131 employees killed in the collapse of a mining dam in 2019.

The disaster in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, killed 270 people in Brazil's most deadly mining tragedy has hampered Vale's performance for two years as it was forced to curb production amid new safety protocols.

Judge Vivianne Celia Ferreira Ramos Correa on Wednesday agreed to the request of the Brumadinho iron mining workers union that the compensation be paid to the estate or heirs of the victims of the disaster, according to the ruling seen by Reuters.

Her decision can be appealed by the company. Vale said it will study the judge's decision.

Vale said in a statement that "it is sensitive to the situation of those affected by the collapse of the B1 dam and has been reaching agreements with the workers' families since 2019 to guarantee quick and complete reparation."

The company argued that it has already paid more than 2 billion reais in civil and labor indemnities associated with the disaster, after having signed agreements with more than 1,600 relatives of victims.

The union's lawyer, Maximiliano Garcez, welcomed the ruling as "humanist" and told Reuters he originally asked for compensation of 3 million reais per deceased worker.

The dam collapse destroyed houses and other building and polluted rivers causing lasting environmental damage in the region.

In February, Vale said it had reached a 37.7 billion real ($7 billion) agreement with prosecutors and the state of Minas Gerais to settle claims stemming from the disaster. read more

The government of Minas Gerais said the agreement did not set a ceiling on potential costs associated with environmental cleanup, which Vale will have to cover.

($1 = 5.0700 reais)

Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Nick Zieminski

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