Samarco and its parent companies Vale and BHP Billiton have signed a 15-year agreement with the Brazilian authorities over the Samarco dam disaster that reportedly killed 17 people.

The companies said they have set up a fund worth R$4.4bn ($1.12bn) to be distributed through 2018.

The agreement has been signed with the Federal Attorney General of Brazil, the states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais and other public authorities to restore the environment and communities affected by the incident on 5 November 2015.

BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie said: "This agreement is an important step forward in supporting the long-term recovery of the communities and environment affected by the Samarco dam failure.

"This agreement is an important step forward in supporting the long-term recovery of the communities and environment affected by the Samarco dam failure."

"It provides a platform for the parties to work together to support the remediation of affected areas."

The agreement provides a long-term compensation framework for responding to the impact of the tragedy and is renewable for periods of one year successively until all obligations have been performed.

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Samarco, Vale and BHP plan to establish a foundation that will develop and execute environmental and socio-economic programmes to remediate and provide compensation for the damage.

Under the reparatory programmes, the environment, local communities and the social condition of the affected areas would be restored.

Compensatory programmes would be put in place to provide compensation where remediation is not possible.

BHP said that the amount of annual contributions for 2019, 2020 and 2021 will vary between a minimum of R$800m ($200m) and a maximum of R$1.6bn ($400m).

The agreement, which is subject to court approval, will settle the civil public claim commenced on 30 November 2015 by the Brazilian Authorities against the companies, if approved.

The claim sought the establishment of a fund of up to R$20bn ($5.1bn) in aggregate for clean-up costs and damages relating to the dam failure.