Federal prosecutors in Brazil filed homicide charges against 21 in connection with mine collapse at the Samarco Mine that left 19 people dead.
Former officials with Vale SA and BHP Billiton and their joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA are among those charged with homicide. The officials include former Samarco chief executive Ricardo Vescovi, Vale’s current iron-ore director Peter Poppinga and five Vale and BHP officials who sat on Samarco’s board in recent years.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the individuals were further charged with crimes of causing a flood, landslide and grave bodily harm. In addition, Vale, BHP and Samarco were charged with 12 different kinds of environmental crimes.
If convicted, the individuals could face sentences of between 12 and 30 years in prison for the crime of “qualified homicide.”
The dam collapse at Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam on Nov. 5, 2015 left about 640 km (400 miles) of rivers in the Rio Doce basin flooded with mud and heavy metals and killed 19 people.
It is believed to be the biggest disaster of its kind in the world, the incident released a torrent of red sludge that washed away villages, displaced hundreds of people and traveled more than 640 km (400 miles) through southeast Brazil’s Rio Doce basin before reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
A judge must accept the charges for a trial, which would take place before a jury, to begin.
In addition to the criminal case, Brazilian federal prosecutors in May filed a civil lawsuit against Vale, BHP, and Samarco seeking 155 billion reais ($49 billion) in damages.