SAO PAULO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - A Brazilian court on Friday froze 300 million reais ($78 million) of funds for miner Samarco Mineracao SA, the owner of a mine where two dams burst and killed at least nine people last week, and said the funds could only be used to pay for damages.
Samarco is a joint venture by two of the world’s biggest mining companies, BHP Billiton Ltd and Brazil’s Vale SA. The companies already face preliminary government fines of 250 million reais.
The prosecutors who requested the funds frozen said hundreds of families had their homes wiped out by a sea of mud unleashed when the dams burst, destroying 80 or 100 buildings and leaving most of one village homeless, according to a court statement.
The judge in Minas Gerais state who froze the accounts said Samarco had a responsibility to compensate the victims regardless of the results of an ongoing investigation into the extent of its responsibility for the disaster.
A press representative for Samarco said it hadn’t been notified about the decision.
$1 = 3.8 reais Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli