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News > Latin America

Brazil Mining Execs May Be Charged with Murder over Dam Break

  • A car is balanced on a wall in Bento Rodrigues district.

    A car is balanced on a wall in Bento Rodrigues district. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 February 2016

Brazilian authorities said they have gathered enough evidence to charge Brazilian mining executives with murder after 19 died in the tragedy.

Brazilian police authorities announced Friday that they have gathered “sufficient evidence” in order to charge high-ranking executives from Brazilian mining companies with murder, following the aftermath of the November 2015 dam burst in Minas Gerais state.

“We have gathered all of the findings from the autopsy reports, in which we determined that the crime of murder had been committed,” said Rodrigo Bustamante, who has been heading up the investigation for the state's civil police.

As part of their criminal investigation, authorities carried out searches on the premises of the Samarco headquarters, in which they collected copies of emails and internal company messages in order to determine whether the company executives know about the impending risk of the dam breaking.

Independent experts warned two years ago that the jointly owned Samarco mine, which collapsed in southeastern Brazil killing 19 people, was not safe.

A 2013 report conducted by The Instituto Pristino linked to the Federal University of Minas Gerais, warned of structural design flaws and predicted the circumstances that could lead to a dam burst at the Samarco operation.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Minas Gerais state said Thursday that the November dam burst in an installation operated by miner Samarco caused losses to municipalities estimated at US$308 million, not considering the environmental problems.

The state government released a detailed report containing an evaluation of impacts to infrastructure and activities, public and private, in the whole area in Minas Gerais that was affected by the mudslide resulting from the dam breach.

The findings could be added to a civil lawsuit already launched by the federal government that is seeking up to US$5.1 billion in indemnities for losses stemming from the accident.

The Brazilian government considered the incident the worst environmental tragedy in the country's history.

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