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Charges laid over Vale Brumadinho tailings dam collapse

the brumadinho tragedy has resulted in removal of vale from corporate human rights benchmark

Prosecutors in Brazil’s, State of Minas Gerais have laid charges over the Vale Brumadinho Tailings Dam collapse that claimed the life of approximately 270 people.

The prosecutors laid homicide and environmental crimes charges on 16 people associated with the disaster including the former CEO of Vale, Fabio Schvartsman for his role in failing to prevent the disaster.

The charges come after a year-long investigation by the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil and almost 12 months since the disaster itself.

Brazilian prosecutors charged Vale’s former CEO Fabio Schvartsman and 10 others from the mining company with homicide for the deaths of 270 people in last year’s collapse of its dam here. Homicide charges were also made against mine auditor TÜV SÜD who certified the tailings dam was safe prior to its’ collapse.

William Garcia Pinto Coelho, the lead state prosecutor in the case confirmed that the company and indeed CEO Mr Schvartsman had been provided an email notifying him of problems in the dam’s structure. According to the evidence gathered it was one of the companies top ten high-risk dams.

Coelho said that the investigators found evidence that those investigated were hiding information. 

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“One of the means used for this, according to the researchers, was a computer program, the GRG, which stands for Geotechnical Risk Management, which stored information about the mining company’s structures. In it, the company calculated the risks of eventual accidents in its dams according to the cost and the probability of occurrence. In part of the costs, each death was considered as a cost of about 8 million reais. The calculations were detailed, and included, for example, the costs of household appliances for families of various classes. A vacuum cleaner from a class A family was quoted at 300 reais. Class C, in 80 reais.

Vale's assets frozen amidst search for mine workers
Rescue workers at Brumadinho are searching for more than 300 people after the tailings dam collapsed

Based on information from this system, a “ranking” of the 10 structures with the highest risk for the company was created. They were dams whose probability of failure was above the acceptable limit. The dam that collapsed in Brumadinho was in eighth place. 

According to information from prosecutors, the risk scenarios of the dams was discussed in June 2018, at an event with external experts and technicians from Vale. 

In the same month, Dam 1 of Brumadinho had its declaration of stability issued by TÜV SÜD. According to the MP, the company did not alert the public authorities about the situation of these structures.

Coelho told a media conference that “As the world’s largest producer of iron ore, Vale used its vast influence over the local industry to foster a type of “corporate dictatorship, colluding with safety inspectors and hiding risks at the dam from the authorities, the public and investors.”

In a statement, prosecutors said it was clear that the dam had presented a critical structural risk since at least 2017 and that Vale and TUV SUD had both been “fully aware” of its inherent safety problems.

STATEMENT BY VALE ON THE CHARGES LAID

Vale S.A. (Vale) informs that it was made aware on this date, January 21, 2020, of the charges filed by the Public Prosecution Office of the State of Minas Gerais (MPMG) related to the Dam I breach in Brumadinho (MG) and that will analyze the full content of the charges to formally respond.  Vale reiterates its solidarity with the families of the victims and the people affected by the tragedy and its confidence on the complete clarification of the causes of the dam breach, reaffirming its commitment to continue to fully co-operate with the authorities.

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