(Adds information from annual production report)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Vale SA said on Wednesday a multi-billion-dollar deal with authorities may be imminent and production may rebound this year, as the iron ore miner seeks to draw a line under two years dogged by sluggish production and complex legal negotiations.
A dam containing mining waste burst in January 2019 at a Vale facility in the town of Brumadinho in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, releasing a torrent of sludge that killed some 270 people.
In a statement on Wednesday, Minas Gerais officials, alongside state and federal prosecutors, said they had agreed on potential financial terms of a settlement regarding the disaster, which would be discussed in detail at a meeting with Vale representatives set for Thursday.
Vale, in a separate statement, said “a meeting was scheduled Thursday for final agreements and the possible signing of a reparations accord, with investments and actions in the affected regions and population.”
Vale shares rose after authorities announced a deal was close, ending up more than 3%, compared with a rise of 1.3% in the Bovespa index.
While neither Vale nor the officials commented on a potential settlement value, a person familiar with the negotiations, who declined to be identified as the talks are closed, told Reuters the current terms involve Vale’s spending about 37 billion reais ($6.91 billion) to compensate for the disaster.
After the market close, Vale released lackluster annual production figures, but flagged a potential rebound in both output and sales in 2021.
Vale said it produced 300.4 million tonnes of iron ore in 2020. That was down 0.5% from the previous year and at the lower range of its guidance of 300 to 305 million tonnes. That guidance was itself the result of a downward revision in December.
The company had said it needed to bring stocks up to sustainable levels in 2020, after stocks dropped to unsustainable levels in 2019, which resulted in sales lagging production. That gap should close in 2021, the company said.
Vale said it closed 2020 with 322 million tonnes of annual iron ore production capacity, and it expects that number to rise to 350 million tonnes by the end of 2021.
$1 = 5.3534 reais Reporting by Marta Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro Additional reporting by Gabriel Araujo Writing by Gram Slattery and Jake Spring Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler