(Adds further prosecutor quote, background on lawsuit)
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 5 (Reuters) - State prosecutors in Brazil said on Thursday that Samarco, owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton, has not done enough to clean up and compensate communities for the damage caused by a tailings dam that collapsed last November causing the country’s worst ever environmental disaster.
“Samarco hasn’t done what needs to be done,” said Mauro Ellovitch, one of the Minas Gerais state prosecutors who held a media briefing to mark six months since the tragedy that killed 19 people and left hundreds homeless.
The criticism comes on the back of a $44 billion lawsuit filed against the companies by separate federal prosecutors on Tuesday.
“Samarco is not making the effort to repair the damage, but is focusing much more on resuming production to attend to its economic interests,” Ellovitch said at the media briefing in the state capital of Belo Horizonte, referring to comments by Samarco’s Chief Executive Roberto de Carvalho in March that the mine could reopen later this year.
State prosecutors have brought multiple smaller cases against the companies for failing, in their eyes, to meet obligations following the dam spill.
On Thursday, prosecutors said they were studying further measures to ensure the company removes the mud in the area and attends to the communities hit by the disaster.
In March, state prosecutors filed criminal charges against Samarco and 14 employees for environmental crimes, alleging that they broke laws by not only causing the spill but also by not cleaning it up properly.
State prosecutors have expressed dismay that the sludge of mining waste has not been removed from the region of the spill and continues to run into local rivers when it rains. Furthermore, mud continues to seep through cracks in the ruptured tailings dam, though dikes downstream are now capturing the waste.
Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and W Simon