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15 Feb 2020

TÜV SÜD & Vale criminal lawsuit (re Brumadinho dam collapse, filed in Brazil)


Date lawsuit was filed
15 Feb 2020
Location of Filing: Brazil
Location of Incident: Brazil
Type of Litigation: Domestic


TÜV Süd Germany Auditing, consulting & accounting


Snapshot Box

In February 2020, Brazilian prosecutors charged Vale and Tüv Süd with crimes against fauna, crimes against flora and pollution. Sixteen executives were charged with aggravated homicide. Prosecutors assert that senior company officials at Vale and Tüv Süd knew the dam was not safe in the months leading up to its collapse. Both companies contest this assertion. The case is ongoing.

Factual Background

In September 2018, the German auditing company Tüv Süd conducted an audit of the Feijao dam, located near the town of Brumadinho, and owned by Brazilian mining company Vale. Tüv Süd found the dam met the requisite safety requirements. However, on 25 January 2019, the dam collapsed due to excessive water pressure. The collapse resulted in 270 deaths and widespread environmental damage. Three people are still missing. Seized documents revealed that Tüv Süd conducted analysis showing it knew for around a year that the dam failed to meet official requirements and posed safety issues. Tüv Süd allegedly falsely certified the dam as safe to avoid losing Vale as a client.

Legal Argument

Prosecutors assert that senior company officials at Vale and Tüv Süd knew the dam was not safe for months before it collapsed. Both companies deny this assertion.

Prosecutors brough charges for aggravated homicide under the penal code, crimes against flora (article 38; Article 38a; Article 40 and Article 48, combined with article 53, item I, of Law 9.605/1998); and fauna (article 29, main section and § 1, item II, and § 4, and article 33, main section and items V and VI, of Law 9.605/1998), and crimes of pollution (article 54, § 2, item III, of Law 9.605/1998).

Legal Proceedings


In February 2019, eight Vale employees, including two executives, were arrested in Brazil in connection with the state’s criminal investigation, but were soon released, to answer to the process in freedom.

In July 2019, the Brazilian Senate asked prosecutors to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against the former CEO of Vale, Fábio Schvartsman, and Vale’s CFO, Luciano Siani Pires, as well as 13 others. The committee also recommended Vale and Tüv Süd be indicted for environmental damage and corporate responsibility. Vale criticised the Senate’s request, asserting that senior employees at the company did not know the dam posed any “imminent risks”.

In September 2019, Brazilian federal police recommended to bring criminal charges against Vale, Tüv Süd and 13 of the companies’ employees. Police argued that the two companies falsified documents to claim that the dam was in stable condition.


In February 2020, prosecutors in Minas Gerais brought charges against 16 individuals. They charged the Vale’s former CEO, Fábio Schvartsman, and 15 others with 270 counts of aggravated homicide. The companies, Vale SA and Tüv Süd Bureau de Projetos e Consultoria were charged with crimes against fauna, crimes against flora and pollution.


In 2021, Brazil’s second highest court, the Superior Court of Justice, ruled that the case should be heard in federal court given that it implicated federal crimes. At the end of 2021, Brazilian Federal Police introduced 21 indictments for murder. Two of the indictments were against companies, and the rest were against individuals.


In April 2022, the Superior Court of Justice, Brazil’s second highest Court, accepted an appeal by state prosecutors in Minas Gerais contesting the removal of the case to federal courts. This went to the Supreme Court. In December 2022, the Supreme Court affirmed that the case should be held in federal court.


In early 2023, the Brazilian Federal Court accepted a complaint against Vale SA, Tüv Süd Bureau de Projetos e Consultoria and 16 executives. The complaint was filed by the Federal Public Ministry, and includes 270 counts of aggravated homicide, crimes against flora and fauna, and crimes of pollution.

Vale stated in a press release that the company “reaffirms its deep respect for the families directly and indirectly impacted by the rupture of Dam 1 in Brumadinho and remains committed to repairing and compensating for damages.” In 2023, Vale announced it would spend $1.53 billion on repairs in connection with the dam’s collapse.

News Items

Vale, Tüv Süd and 16 individuals named defendants in Brumadinho disaster, Mining.Com, 24 Jan 2023

Gilmar Mendes muda voto e casos de Brumadinho serão julgados na Justiça Federal, Jota, 16 Dec 2022

High court to decide on venue for Brumadinho dam collapse case, The Brazilian Report, 1 Apr 2022

Feds present 21 indictment requests for Brumadinho dam disaster, The Brazilian Report, 26 Nov 2021

Brazil dam disaster firms to face criminal charges, BBC, 20 Sept 2019

Brazilian mining company to pay out £86m for disaster that killed almost 300 people, The Guardian, 16 July 2019

Brazil mining giant Vale will face criminal charges over deadly dam collapse: report, CNBC, 10 Apr 2019

Brumadinho dam collapse: Eight arrests at Brazil's Vale, BBC, 15 Feb 2019

Vale 'knew collapsed dam was at risk', says report, BBC, 12 Feb 2019