Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Brazilian authorities have frozen more than $4 billion dollars' worth of assets belonging to Vale over a deadly dam collapse, the mining giant said Wednesday, as it reported a 24.6 percent increase in full-year net profit.
Vale has been struggling to deal with the aftermath of the January 25 rupture in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais that spewed millions of tons of mining waste across the countryside and forced the suspension of some of its operations.
As the official death toll from the disaster rose to 212 with another 93 missing, Vale said local judicial and government authorities had frozen more than 16 billion reais (more than $4 billion) of its assets to cover the potential cost of compensation, wages and other expenses relating to the disaster.
It was too early to estimate the total cost of the dam break, Vale said in a statement, noting the "preliminary stage of the various claims and contingencies."
For 2018, the world's top iron ore producer said net profit rose 24.6 percent to $6.86 billion on a strong fourth-quarter performance. Its full-year operating revenue reached $36.58 billion, up 7.7 percent from the previous year.
Vale president Fabio Schvartsman and three executives temporarily stepped down in early March after prosecutors recommended their dismissal over the crisis.
More than two months after the disaster, environmental activists say poisonous sludge from the dam has reached the Sao Francisco River -- Brazil´s second longest -- hundreds of kilometers (miles) downstream.
The disaster was the second involving Vale in three years in the mineral-rich region. So far, Vale says, its water quality analysis shows toxicity levels near the dam are "below the legal limits for mining tailings" and are "not harmful to health."
And its technicians predict that material from the dam would "not reach the Sao Francisco," Vale said Friday.