Skip to content
18.3 °Cforecast >
Partly Cloudy
Jobs | Contact | Tip line: 705-673-0123

Vale in Brazil facing criminal charges over dam collapse

Victims suing company, seeking $1.29B in compensation
Vale staff in Brazil are facing criminal charges of a mine tailings dam collapse last January that killed at least 186 people (File)

As it continues to deal with the aftermath of the deadly tailings dam collapse in January, Vale staff in Brazil are facing criminal charges, it was reported this week.

A story from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday quoted investigators in the case as saying they have gathered enough evidence “to affirm that Vale employees involved in the mine operation knew the dam was unsafe,” a report from Reuters said. “The charges for crimes related to the disaster could include murder, manslaughter, environmental damage and false representation, according to the report.”

“It is necessary to wait until investigation is completed. Vale continues cooperating fully with the authorities to ascertain the facts related to the dam breach,” Vale is quoted as saying in response to a Reuters query.

“The issues identified in the audits have been addressed under the guidance of the auditing firms.”

The company's Brumadinho dam breach at Vale’s Feijao iron ore mine occurred Jan. 25, killing at least 186 people with another 122 missing. Three years ago, a similar disaster occurred at a mine operated by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton Ltd. It resulted in the death of 10 people and poisoned local drinking water.

Since the Brumadinho collapse, it has emerged that the company pressured safety inspectors to declare the dam safe. Last month, Vale head Fabio Schvartsman was pressured into resigning by Brazilian prosecutors. 

Vale has substantial nickel mining operations in Sudbury, which it purchased from Inco several years ago. Vale also has operations in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador, as well as in Caledonia and Indonesia.

Vale said Wednesday it had begun negotiations with victims and families over compensation for personal and property damage resulting from the collapse. A lawyer representing victims said they are seeking 5 billion Brazilian reals, or $1.7 billion Cdn, from the company.