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The debris of the municipal school of Bento Rodrigues district, which was covered with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst, is pictured in Mariana, Brazil, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File photo(reuters_tickers)
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's Samarco Mineração SA expects to pay up to 2 billion reais ($512.5 million) this year to 19,000 families affected by the 2015 mining disaster in the state of Minas Gerais, the foundation created to pay the victims said on Wednesday.
The first families to receive damages payments will be "the most vulnerable," said Roberto Waak, president of the foundation.
The disaster, Brazil's worst environmental catastrophe, occurred when a dam designed to hold back mine waste burst in November 2015, killing 19 people and leaving a trail of destruction for hundreds of kilometers (miles).
Samarco and parent companies Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd said in June they had signed a deal with Brazilian authorities that settled a 20 billion reais ($5.30 billion) lawsuit related to the accident.
Waak, speaking on the sidelines of a mining event, estimated the total number of families entitled to receive damages payments would eventually rise to 60,000 but he did not say how much the remaining families would receive or when.
So far the foundation has spent 4.2 billion reais to repair damages, according to information posted in its website.
Around 500 houses built by the foundation are expected to be delivered early next year, Waak said.
Samarco's operations have been halted ever since the disaster.
($1 = 3.9022 reais)
(Reporting by Jose Roberto Gomes and Marta Nogueira; Writing by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Sandra Maler)