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With 121 people confirmed dead and another 226 still missing, according to the latest tally Saturday, the Brumadinho dam burst could be Brazil's deadliest mine disaster.
Brazil's Superior Court of Justice (STJ) has freed five Vale SA and Tuv Sud employees arrested after the burst of a dam in Brumadinho that killed more than 100 people and left more than 200 others unaccounted for.
The ruling overturned a lower court decision and set free executives Andre Yassuda, Makoto Namba, Rodrigo Artur Gomes de Melo, Ricardo de Oliveira and Cesar Augusto Paulino Grandchamp, stating that there was no reason for them to be held, the STJ press office said.
The disaster poses a headache for the new government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose new business-friendly administration must juggle public anger over the tragedy and its own desire to ease mining and environmental regulations to kick-start growth.
Hildebrando Neto, Minas Gerais' deputy minister for environmental regulations, told Reuters that all evidence suggests the burst was caused by liquefaction, whereby a solid material such as sand loses strength and stiffness and behaves more like a liquid.
Neto said liquefaction caused the 2015 collapse of the Samarco dam, which led to the deaths of 19 people.
Mendonca highlighted a concern that Vale is not complying with regulations applied after the Samarco tragedy. He said compensation payments, as well as greater transparency and judicial compliance, have not been met.
The Brazilian Justice blocked bank accounts of the mining company to the value of 6,000 million reais (approximately US$1.62 billion) to compensate the families of the victims. For its part, the Brazilian Institute of Environment (Ibama), applied a fine on the mining company of 250 million reais (approximately US$66.5 million) for the disaster, confirmed the Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles.