SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Miner BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP.AX) (BLT.L), its partner Vale SA (VALE5.SA) and their jointly owned Samarco unit said on Thursday they have set a June 30 deadline to settle billions of dollars in compensation claims stemming from an iron ore mine disaster in Brazil in 2015.
The aim is to consolidate and settle separate claims, including a $47.5 billion civil claim brought by Brazil's federal prosecutors last year, the companies said.
Under the agreement, BHP Billiton, Vale and Samarco will initially provide 2.2 billion reals ($681 million) in total to support compensation and remediation from the impact of the fatal dam failure.
Operations at the Samarco mine were suspended in 2015 after the collapse of a dam holding mining waste, or tailings. The rupture killed 19 people, left hundreds homeless and caused Brazil's worst environmental disaster.
"This spells out how and when we are going to settle this with the prosecutors," BHP spokesman Paul Hitchins said. "Up until this time we had all these different courts hearing the case. This consolidates all that."
The companies said any restart of operations at Samarco was subject to a separate set of negotiations with relevant parties and would occur only if it was deemed safe, economically viable and had the support of the local community.
Reporting by Sonali Paul and Jane Wardell; Additional reporting by James Regan; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell