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Vale and BHP Billiton announced today plans to work together, with Samarco, to establish a voluntary, non-profit fund to support the rescue and recuperation of the Rio Doce river system, affected by an accident at Samarco’s Fundão dam, in the state of Minas Gerais on 5 November 2015.

The Fund would initially be sponsored by Vale and BHP Billiton. The aim is to seek additional financial support from other private, public and non-government organisations. The initial value is still being defined.  The objective, however, is that these resources would support the rescue and recuperation effort of the river system for the longer term.

It is proposed that the Fund would have a committee to guide investment and oversee budget approval. The number of participants has yet to be defined, but it would likely include representatives from the private and public entities. A dedicated team would be responsible for its management, according to the targets established. The Fund would also undergo regular independent audits. The sponsors are finalising the governance, scope, financial and stakeholder arrangements associated with the Fund to ensure it can be put into effect as soon as practicable.

The actions to recuperate the Rio Doce river system include the recomposition of riparian forest, water quality and aquatic fauna, as well as helping to rescue the biodiversity of the Rio Doce river basin.

Today just four per cent of the original coverage of the Atlantic Forest remains in the river basin. Approximately 80 per cent of the area is made up of degraded pastureland. The deforested earth hinders the infiltration of rainwater, which sustains groundwater levels. The flow of the Rio Doce in the dry months, which historically was 300m3 per second, fell in the region of Colatina (Espírito Santo state) in 2015 to 80m3 per second.

Announcing the Fund plans, the CEO of Vale, Murilo Ferreira, and the CEO of BHP Billiton, Andrew Mackenzie, made the following joint statements of support: “Vale and BHP Billiton are committed to supporting the rehabilitation of those areas of the Rio Doce system impacted by the recent tragedy.

“The immediate focus for Samarco has been securing the safety of the operations and supporting the humanitarian and environmental response. Plans must also be made for the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected environment.

“The Fund would focus on supporting the remediation of the river as part of the commitment of Vale, BHP Billiton and Samarco to the aquatic environment following the release of the tailings into the Doce basin.

“We see this Fund as part of a positive contribution to the people of Brazil, who owe much to this river system.”

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