TÜV SÜD lawsuit (re role in Brumadinho dam collapse)

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Snapshot:

On 15 October 2019, five Brazilians who lost close family members in the Brumadinho dam collapse, and two NGOs filed a law infringement complaint against German auditor TÜV SÜD. The plaintiffs allege that TÜV SÜD is jointly responsible (along with Vale, the owner of the mine) in the deaths and environmental damage due to the collapse of the Brumadinho dam in January 2019.  The company denies the allegations.

On 15 October 2019, five Brazilians who lost close family members in the Brumadinho dam collapse and two NGOs filed a law infringement complaint against Credit TV NBRGerman auditor TÜV SÜD. The plaintiffs allege that TÜV SÜD is jointly responsible (along with Vale, the owner of the mine) in the deaths and environmental damage caused by the collapse of the Brumadinho dam in January 2019.  The company denies the allegations.

Excessive water pressure caused the dam to burst, killing 270 people, contaminating the drinking water of thousands of people and causing damage to the surrounding environment. Four months before the dam failure, German auditor TÜV SÜD confirmed the dam’s safety, despite several unfulfilled maintenance recommendations from their Brazilian subsidiary. As early as March 2018, TÜV SÜD’s Brazilian subsidiary, Bureau de Projetos e Consultoria, reported problems with the dam’s drainage. However, its recommendations were largely ignored. Furthermore, during an inspection, TÜV SÜD’s employees noted the dam did not reach the necessary stability factors. Instead of refusing to issue a stability declaration, they utilized new, faulty calculation methods to declare the dam’s safety.

After the dam burst, TÜV SÜD expressed condolences to those affected by the dam burst, but did not offer any compensation or accept responsibility.

 

News items

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

Tüv Süd

- TÜV SÜD responds to allegations it is failing to cooperate with investigators looking in Brazil dam collapse, 1 Aug 2019

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

- Deadly dam breach near Brumadhinho: Affected persons file complaint against TÜV SÜD in Germany, ECCHR, Misereor, Associação Comunitária da Jangada and International Articulation of People Affected by Vale, 17 Oct 2019
- The Safety Business: TÜV SÜD’S role in the Brumadinho dam failure in Brazil, Oct 2019

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Article
17 October 2019

Deadly dam breach near Brumadhinho: Affected persons file complaint against TÜV SÜD in Germany

Author: ECCHR, Misereor, Associação Comunitária da Jangada and International Articulation of People Affected by Vale

More than 270 people were killed, the drinking water of thousands of people was contaminated and the environment destroyed when the B1 dam near Brumadinho in Brazil broke on 25 January 2019. Only four months prior, German auditor TÜV SÜD confirmed the dam’s safety when its Brazilian subsidiary issued a stability declaration. For this reason, on 15 October 2019, five of those affected by the dam failure, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and MISEREOR filed complaints against the German certification company and one of its employees. The accusations: negligent homicide, private bribery, causing a flood by negligence, and violating supervisory duties...

Vale S.A. [...] rejects all responsibility for the dam failure at its mine, citing TÜV SÜD and the test results of its Brazilian subsidiary. Certifiers’ roles in the global economy are controversial...

“Human rights due diligence and the care for nature must take precedence over corporate economic interests. The action of TÜV SÜD shows that we urgently need a binding law for corporations to ensure that this is not left to a company’s discretion...,” said Pirmin Spiegel, Managing Director of MISEREOR.

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Article
17 October 2019

THE SAFETY BUSINESS: TÜV SÜD'S ROLE IN THE BRUMADINHO DAM FAILURE IN BRAZIL

Author: ECCHR

The Brazilian company Vale S.A., the mine's operator and world's largest iron ore exporter, is under investigation by the Brazilian public prosecutor's office. In order to clarify TÜV SÜD's responsibility, five Brazilians who lost close family members in the dam failure, ECCHR and MISEREOR filed a criminal complaint against a TÜV SÜD employee, as well as a law infringement complaint against TÜV SÜD, with the public prosecutor in Munich. Brazilian organizations Associacão Jangada and International Articulation of People Affected by Vale support the complaints. Lawyer Bernhard Docke and Professor Carsten Momsen represent those affected in the supplementary lawsuit.

Those affected by the breach, ECCHR and MISEREOR accuse TÜV SÜD of having contributed to the dam failure near Brumadinho in the complaints. Despite obvious safety risks, TÜV SÜD did not prevent its Brazilian subsidiary from issuing the required dam stability declaration...

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Author: ECCHR, Misereor

Mehr als 270 Menschen wurden getötet, das Trinkwasser Tausender wurde verseucht und die Umwelt zerstört, als am 25. Januar 2019 der Damm B1 bei Brumadinho in Brasilien brach. Nur vier Monate zuvor hatte TÜV SÜD die Sicherheit des Damms bestätigt. Am 15. Oktober 2019 haben deswegen fünf Betroffene aus Brasilien gemeinsam mit dem European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) und MISEREOR Anzeige gegen das deutsche Zertifizierungsunternehmen und einen seiner Mitarbeiter eingereicht. Die Vorwürfe: fahrlässige Tötung, Privatbestechung, fahrlässiges Herbeiführen einer Überschwemmung sowie Verletzung der Aufsichtspflichten...

Vale S.A. [...] weist jede Verantwortung für den Dammbruch von sich und beruft sich auf  TÜV SÜD und die Prüfergebnisse seiner brasilianischen Tochter. Die Arbeit von Zertifizierungsunternehmen in der globalen Wirtschaft ist hoch umstritten. Unternehmen [...] bezahlen Zertifizierer für Sicherheitsprüfungen – was zwingend zu einem Interessenkonflikt führt...

"...Das Vorgehen von TÜV SÜD zeigt, dass wir dringend eine gesetzliche Verpflichtung für Unternehmen brauchen, weil viele nicht freiwillig ihrer Verantwortung nachkommen. Wir setzen uns deshalb [...] für ein Lieferkettengesetz in Deutschland ein, damit Unternehmen bei Menschenrechtsverletzungen und Umweltschäden haftbar gemacht werden könnten", erklärte MISEREOR-Hauptgeschäftsführer Pirmin Spiegel.

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Author: Hubert Gude und Claus Hecking, Spiegel

Neun Monate nach der verheerenden Schlammlawine in Brasilien mit mindestens 251 Toten zeigen Hinterbliebene der Opfer einen deutschen Manager der Prüforganisation TÜV Süd an. Die Vorwürfe: fahrlässige Tötung, fahrlässige Herbeiführung einer Überschwemmung und Bestechung...

Die Staatsanwaltschaft muss den Fall nun prüfen - und dann entscheiden, ob sie Klage gegen den für Brasilien zuständigen deutschen TÜV-Süd-Manager M. erhebt. 

Auch gegen die Prüforganisation mit Sitz in München gehen die Kläger vor. Dem international tätigen Unternehmen werfen sie eine "Verletzung von Aufsichtspflichten" vor, was als Ordnungswidrigkeit geahndet werden kann...

Das Münchener Unternehmen wollte sich mit Verweis auf die laufenden Untersuchungen in Brasilien zu den Vorwürfen nicht äußern...

Aus dem internen E-Mail-Verkehr der brasilianischen TÜV-Süd-Mitarbeiter vor dem Unglück geht hervor, dass die Sicherheitsprobleme des Damms in Brumadinho mit M. besprochen werden sollten...

Allerdings sind bislang keine eindeutigen Beweise bekannt, dass dann tatsächlich über Brumadinho gesprochen wurde. Es gilt die Unschuldsvermutung. Der TÜV Süd hat selbst Ermittlungen eingeleitet...

Der Fall zeige [...] dass deutsche Unternehmen gesetzlich zur menschenrechtlichen Sorgfalt in ihren Geschäften im Ausland verpflichtet werden müssten.

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Author: ARD

Trotz der Sicherheitsbedenken wurde die Stabilitätserklärung vom TÜV Süd schließlich abgegeben. Das European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin hat deshalb gemeinsam mit dem kirchlichen Hilfswerk Misereor und Angehörigen von brasilianischen Betroffenen in Deutschland Anzeige erstattet...

Die Anzeige, die Monitor exklusiv vorliegt, richtet sich aber nicht nur gegen den TÜV Süd, sondern auch namentlich gegen M., einen deutschen Manager. Ihm wird darin unter anderem fahrlässige Tötung, Herbeiführen einer Überschwemmung und Bestechung im geschäftlichen Verkehr vorgeworfen...

Auch ein parlamentarischer Untersuchungsausschuss zur Katastrophe von Brumadinho kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass der deutsche Manager offenbar eine zentrale Rolle spielte. "Er war der verantwortliche Ingenieur", sagte der Sprecher des Untersuchungsausschusses, Rogerio Coerreia, gegenüber Monitor. "Er hat die Gewähr für das Gutachten gegeben, das dann von den hiesigen Ingenieuren unterschrieben wurde. Er war der Leiter des gesamten Prozesses."

Auf Monitor-Anfrage wollten sich weder der TÜV Süd noch der Manager zu den schweren Vorwürfen äußern - mit Hinweis auf laufende Untersuchungen...

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Item
20 September 2019

Brazil: Vale and Tüv Süd face criminal charges over dam disaster

Author: BBC

“Brazil dam disaster firms to face criminal charges”, 20th September 2019

…Brazilian federal police have proposed criminal charges against mining giant Vale and German safety firm Tüv Süd and 13 of their employees over January's deadly dam collapse, reports say. Police reportedly say both firms used falsified documents that said the Feijão dam was stable…

In July a Brazilian judge ordered Vale to pay compensation for all damages caused by the collapse of the dam, saying that that the company was responsible for fixing all the damages including the economic effects. The same month, emails emerged that showed Tüv Süd's own analysis of the dam initially failed to meet official requirements.

Tüv Süd inspected the dam in the months before the collapse. It was a "tailings" dam - an embankment filled with waste product - and decades of waste from the nearby mine had been piled up and grassed over. Tailings dams are vulnerable to "liquefaction", when, for various reasons, the solid material begins to act and move like a liquid, putting them at risk of becoming vulnerable to collapse. Documents and internal emails seized by investigators show that Tüv Süd employees knew for around a year that there was liquefaction at the dam…

 

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Author: Deutsche Welle Brasil (Brazil)

“Certificadora alemã defende análise técnica realizada em Brumadinho”, 19 de agosto de 2019

Quase oito meses após o rompimento de uma barragem da Vale em Brumadinho, a certificadora alemã TÜV Süd defendeu...os engenheiros contratados por sua filial brasileira que estão sendo investigados por terem atestado a estabilidade da estrutura em setembro de 2018. O desastre deixou 270 mortos."Até agora ninguém sabe o que causou o acidente", afirmou o presidente da TÜV Süd, Axel Stepken, em entrevista à agência de notícias Reuters. "Não sabemos o que foi feito entre setembro de 2018 e janeiro de 2019, por exemplo, se foi trabalhado com equipamentos pesados ou se houve explosões. Nossa subsidiária brasileira recomendou expressamente aos operadores da barragem que proibissem ou evitassem esse tipo de atividade", acrescentou...[H]á suspeita de que a Vale possa ter pressionado a empresa alemã para declarar a estabilidade em troca de novos contratos com a mineradora...[A]pesar das perdas financeiras, segundo Stepken, o rompimento da barragem não afetou o faturamento da empresa. "Nossos clientes confiam em nós", afirmou. A certificadora, porém, interrompeu o serviço de avaliações de barragens no Brasil após o desastre...[A]...área de engenharia geotécnica da empresa no Brasil atua especialmente no gerenciamento de áreas contaminadas e no desenvolvimento de projetos para a desativação de ativos de mineração, como barragens de rejeitos...

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Article
19 February 2019

Brazil: Prosecutor arrests employees of Vale & German auditing firm for knowingly disguising dam weaknesses

Author: Eduardo Simões & Marta Nogueira, Reuters

"Brazil arrests eight Vale employees in alleged cover-up in dam disaster", 15 Feb 2019

Brazilian police arrested eight employees of mining firm Vale SA on [15 February 2019], accused by state prosecutors of covering up weaknesses at a dam that collapsed and likely killed more than 300 people. The arrests and search warrants targeted employees of Vale as well as German auditing firm TÜV SÜD, which had certified the dam as stable.

The arrests deepened a festering crisis for Vale, the world's largest iron ore mining company… "The eight Vale employees .. had full knowledge of the situation of instability in the dam and each one of them, as part of their job, also had the power and ability to adopt measures for either stabilizing the structure or evacuating areas at risk," a judge in Minas Gerais wrote in an arrest warrant, issued in response to a petition from the state prosecutor's office.

Vale said in a securities filing it was cooperating with the investigation…

Prosecutors alleged that [Vale executives] pressured Makoto Namba, a TÜV SÜD engineer who was arrested and later released, "to sign a declaration that the dam was stable, or risk losing the contract"...TÜV SÜD declined to comment…

Reuters reported earlier this week that Vale had seen an internal report last year that the dam had a heightened risk of rupturing. Chief Financial Officer Luciano Siani said…that Vale senior management were never shown the documents.

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