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News > Brazil

Brazil Court Orders Vale Personnel to Be Arrested Again

  • Members of a rescue team search for victims after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed, in Brumadinho, Brazil Jan. 28, 2019.

    Members of a rescue team search for victims after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed, in Brumadinho, Brazil Jan. 28, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 March 2019

The Court of Justice of Minas Gerais once again ordered the arrest of the 13 employees from Vale and Tuv Sud who were released in February.

A Brazilian court in the state of Minas Gerais ordered the arrest of Vale SA employees and contractors from auditor Tuv Sud,  charged in the Brumadinho dam burst that killed hundreds, according to a statement by the 7th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Justice of Minas Gerais Wednesday.

Brazil Court Frees Vale And Tuv Sud Employees in Dam Burst Case

The decision applies to all 13 employees who were released in February by a ruling of the Superior Court of Justice. The first group, with three employees from Vale and two from Tuv Sud, was released on Feb. 5. While the second group of eight employees of Vale was released on the 22 days later. In both occasions, no senior managers were arrested. 

This ruling came despite an accusation of state prosecutors of the companies covering up weaknesses at the dam. A report, dated Oct. 3, 2018, classified the structure at Brumadinho as being two times more likely to fail than the maximum level of risk tolerated under internal guidelines, meaning the company knew prior to the event the likelihood of such a burst. 

The disaster occurred on Jan. 25, 2019, when a tailings dam at the Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine, nine kilometers east of Brumadinho, burst. This catastrophic failure released a mudflow that advanced over hundreds of houses in a rural area near the city. As of March 3, at least 186 people were confirmed dead, 122 were considered missing, and 182 people were rescued alive.

Minas Gerais' deputy minister for environmental regulations, Hildebrando Neto, explained 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.

The dam is owned by Vale, the world’s largest iron ore miner, the same company involved in the 2015 Mariana dam disaster which killed 19 people.

“Brazilian miner Vale needs to change its behavior, cooperate more with authorities, and be more transparent after a deadly dam collapse at one of its mines that likely killed more than 300 people,” Brazil's solicitor general said Feb. 2.

On March 2, Vale temporarily suspended executives Fabio Schvartsman (CEO), Gerd Poppinga (Executive Director of Ferrous and Coal), Lucio Flavio Gallon (Head of Planning and Development of Ferrous and Coal) and Silmar Magalhães Silva (Head of Operations of the Southeast Corridor). 

As of Wednesday all the employees ordered arrested were suspended from their jobs, the company said in a statement. While Tuv Sud declined to comment.

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