Former Vale CEO, 15 others charged with homicide in Brazil

January 22, 2020

Former chief executive of Vale SA, Fabio Schvartsman, is one of 16 people charged with homicide by prosecutors in Brazil for their roles in the tailings dam failure at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerias that left more than 250 people dead in 2019.

Reuters reported that Brazilian state prosecutors filed the charges on Jan. 21 against Schvartsman and other executives from Vale and German consulting firm TUV SUD, the company responsible for inspecting the dam that collapsed on Jan. 25, 2019. In addition to the homicide charges, the 16 people were charged with environmental crimes. Of the 16 individuals charged, 11 had worked for Vale and five for TUV SUD, prosecutors said.

In a televised press conference, prosecutors alleged Vale and TUV SUD systematically and intentionally hid information about safety issues at its tailings dams in the years leading up to the collapse.

“Vale, with the support of TUV SUD, produced a large amount of technical information about ... various dams owned and managed by Vale, that were recognized, I repeat, internally recognized, as dams with an unacceptable risk profile,” said William Garcia Pinto Coelho, a prosecutor on the case.

In separate comments, Vale, TUV SUD and a representative for Schvartsman said it was premature to assign fault for the rupture, given that other prosecutorial bodies were still looking into the matter.

Federal police and prosecutors are investigating the dam collapse and could bring additional charges at the federal level. Investigators in Germany, where TUV SUD is based, are also looking into the matter.

“Vale right away expresses that it is perplexed by the accusations of willful misconduct. It’s important to point out that other bodies are also looking into the case,” the company said in a statement.

TUV SUD said it “continues to be deeply saddened by the tragic collapse of the dam in Brumadinho,” adding that it believed the causes of the accident had not yet been definitively determined.

A representative for Schvartsman pointed out that a federal police report on the matter was not due until June.

The collapse of the Vale tailings dam on Jan. 25, 2019 in the town of Brumadinho was one of the world’s deadliest mining accidents and knocked $19 billion off Vale’s market value in a single day.

 

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