InfrastructureBrazil: Court Accepts Homicide Charges over Dam Collapse Which Killed 270

Published 17 February 2020

In January 2019, more than 270 were killed, thousands of homes destroyed, and large tracts of agricultural land poisoned when Brazil’s Brumadinho dam collapsed, releasing tons of toxic sludge. Last week, a Brazilian judge accepted the prosecution’s argument that 16 employees of Brazilian mining giant Vale the company’s German safety auditor should stand trial for intentional homicide. Documents show that Vale’s former CEO and the German auditors colluded to falsify engineering reports which warned about the dam’s structural weakness. Separately, German prosecutors said that they would file charged of negligent homicide and bribery against the German safety auditors.

More than 270 people were killed in January 2019 when Brazil’s Brumadinho dam burst. Last Thursday a Brazilian state court decided that the former CEO of Brazilian mining giant Vale and employees of a German safety auditor will have to stand trial for homicide.

Folha de S. Paulo reports that the judge has accepted the charges and allowed a case to proceed against employees of mining company Vale and the company’s German safety auditor TÜV SÜD for their role in a deadly dam collapse.

More than 270 people died when the Brumadinho tailings dam burst on 25 January 2019, releasing tons of toxic sludge which swallowed homes and roads and poisoned agricultural land downstream.

Last week’s decision by the judge in the eastern state of Minas Gerais came after prosecutors filed charges of willful homicide last month against sixteen people who had worked for the two companies — including Vale’s former CEO Fabio Schvartsman.

The prosecutors filing in court say that over more than five years, Vale and TÜV SÜD intentionally concealed and covered up serious problems with the dam’s structural integrity. Only weeks before the disaster, the Brazilian subsidiary of TÜV SÜD had inspected the dam’s retention basins and concluded that they were safe.

The defendants, if found guilty, could face prison sentences of between 12 years and 30 years.

Schvartsman’s lawyers they will prove their client’s innocence in court, while TÜV SÜD said Saturday that it did not consider itself “legally responsible” for the dam collapse, and would “vigorously defend itself against claims for damages.”

German network RND reports that Munich’s public prosecutor was also investigating TÜV SÜD over its role in the dam collapse. According to the report, a German engineer is under investigation for several offenses, including negligent homicide and bribery.