Brazil: Former Vale CEO charged with homicide for dam collapse, as TUV SUD is charged with environmental crimes

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23 January 2020

MiningWatch Canada pushes for global review of safety of tailings dams

Author: CBC News

State prosecutors in Brazil have charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of the mining company Vale, and 15 other people with homicide in connection with a tailings dam disaster last January that killed more than 250 people. Jamie Kneen... communications and outreach coordinator with MiningWatch Canada... [said] "We really need an independent third party with a lot of clout and credibility to have the authority to go in and investigate and look at the engineering but also the ground conditions... The liability is there in the sense that those structures are fairly technically designed and executed... And in this case, there were signs of instability and it was allowed to continue."... Kneen explained that the charges are specific to the Brazilian operation. "But I hope that it has a larger effect in making the company much more attentive to its own engineers and its own internal reporting, but also to the demands of the community," he added.

... A spokesperson for Vale shared a statement from the Vale press office in Brazil, which reads in part: It is important to note that other authorities are investigating the case and, at this point, it is premature to claim there was conscious assumption of risk to cause a deliberate breach of the dam. Vale trusts in the complete clarification of the causes of the breach and reaffirms its commitment to continue to fully co-operate with the authorities.

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21 January 2020

Brazil charges ex-Vale CEO with homicide for dam disaster

Author: Al Jazeera

…Brazilian state prosecutors on Tuesday charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of mining giant Vale SA, and 15 other people with homicide for a dam disaster last year that killed more than 250 people…

In addition to homicide charges, Vale and TUV SUD, the German company responsible for inspecting the dam, were charged with environmental crimes. The 16 individuals charged had worked for Vale or TUV SUD…

The charges, which were presented nearly a year after the collapse of a Vale dam in the state of Minas Gerais, represent a major step forward in Brazilian authorities' attempt to hold individuals criminally responsible for the disaster…

Andressa de Oliveira Lanchotti, a state prosecutor, told Reuters at the time that Vale and TUV SUD employees knew the dam was at risk of collapsing and failed to act. She said state prosecutors believed TUV SUD had a significant interest in signing off on the dam's security, particularly after Vale had fired a different inspection firm that declined to do so…

In a statement, TUV SUD said it "continues to be deeply saddened by the tragic collapse of the dam in Brumadinho," adding that the company's thoughts "are with the victims and their families."

"We continue offering our cooperation to authorities in Brazil and Germany regarding ongoing investigations”…

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21 January 2020

Brazil prosecutors charge 16 people with murder in dam collapse that killed 270

Author: Dom Phillips, The Guardian

Brazilian prosecutors have charged 16 people – including the former CEO of mining giant Vale – with murder and environmental crimes over the collapse of a tailings dam which killed 270 people on 25 January 2019.

The charges were announced by state prosecutors in Minas Gerais days before the first anniversary of the disaster, which sent a torrent of liquid mining waste across the picturesque countryside, flattening Vale’s plant, offices and canteen, and killing guests at a nearby countryside guesthouse.

Vale’s former CEO Fabio Schvarstman and 10 other employees were charged, along with five employees of German company TÜV SÜD.

Prosecutors said in a statement that there was a relationship of “pressure, collusion, rewards and conflict of interest between Vale and TÜV SÜD”. They alleged that Vale hid information about the dam’s instability to avoid hurting the company’s reputation, and TÜV SÜD issued reports saying it was safe.

“The object of these omissions was to avoid any negative reputational impacts to Vale that could affect its market value,” the prosecutor William Garcia told reporters on Tuesday. “TÜV SÜD and Vale systematically concealed from society, shareholders and investors the real gravity of the situation.”...

In separate statements, TÜV SÜD, Vale and a representative for Schvartsman told Reuters it was premature to assign fault for the rupture, given that other prosecutorial bodies were still looking into the matter.

TÜV SÜD said it was “deeply affected by the tragic collapse of the dam” and added: “The causes of the dam breach have still not been conclusively clarified.”

Vale said it would review all the details of the charges, adding that it found the fraud accusation “perplexing”.

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