On November 5, Samarco’s tailings dam burst, causing an avalanche of 2.2 billion cubic feet of mud and mine waste.
The Samarco and Vale mining companies were also indicted, as well as VogBR Recursos Hídricos e Geotécnica, responsible for signing the statement that declared the dam stable just last year.
The mining company challenges the decision, and “disagrees with the indictment of its staff because there isn’t a technical expert conclusion of the causes of the accident so far.”
Yesterday, Brazil’s federal police in Minas Gerais charged Samarco CEO, Ricardo Vescovi De Aragao, for environmental crimes caused by the disruption of the Fundão tailings dam — Brazil’s largest environmental disaster.
The Samarco and Vale mining companies were also indicted, as well as VogBR Recursos Hídricos e Geotécnica, responsible for signing the statement that declared the dam stable just last year. In a message to Mongabay, VogBR’s CEO, André Euzébio, cleared his company of any wrongdoing, saying they had declared the Fundão dam as stable last July, when they last examined the structure “in the most rigorous manner.”
In addition to the three companies, some Samarco executives were charged, including the dams monitoring coordinator, the Fundão dam manager, the geotechnical manager, and the operations general manager. The federal police did not release the names of the employees, only their positions, and said there could be yet more indictments.
On November 5, Samarco’s dam burst, causing an avalanche of 2.2 billion cubic feet of mud and mine waste that destroyed Bento Rodrigues district, in Mariana, and also affected other districts, such as Águas Claras and Pedras, before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. And on the eve of the tragedy, the Brazilian government had promised to hold Samarco and Vale responsible for the destruction.
The charges are based on Article 54 of the Environmental Crimes Law, which severely castigates “causing pollution of any kind at such levels that result or may result in damage to human health or causing the death of animals or significant destruction of flora.” There are also sections that criminalize “making areas unfit for human habitation, pollution of the water that supplies communities and hinder or prevent the public use of beaches.”
In response to the news, Vale’s press office, declared that the company received the news with surprise. “The indictment reflects a personal understanding of the head of the police and comes at a time when the actual causes of the accident are not technically confirmed yet and, therefore, unknown,” it said.
“In addition”, said the spokesman, “the assumptions of the federal police on a theoretical responsibility of Vale are based on suppositions that have no actual causal link to the accident, as will be timely and technically demonstrated by Vale.”
In a statement, a Samarco spokesperson echoed Vale’s. He said the company “disagrees with the indictment of its staff because there isn’t a technical expert conclusion of the causes of the accident so far.”
Twenty days after the breaking of the Fundão dam, Samarco CEO Ricardo Vescovi De Aragao, had stated that the explanation for the disruption would only be presented by the company within a period of six months to a yearMongabay has tried to contact company representatives at VogBR as well, but there was no response.
Yesterday — one day past its deadline—Samarco delivered to the Justice Court of Minas Gerais an emergency plan in case of the disruption of their two other dams in Mariana, Germano and Santarém dams. On the same day, Samarco presented a petition justifying the delay, alleging that the company hired to do this work didn’t deliver the material in the time frame.
“The prosecution believes that society can’t be at the mercy of the time frames that meet the convenience of Samarco,” said the State Public Ministry statement, in response. “These studies should have been presented a long time ago.”
Samarco’s request will be decided by the Minas Gerais Justice in the coming days. The company is likely to be hit with a fine of up to $1,250,000 for every day it is delayed in delivering its emergency plan.
VogBR Recursos Hídricos e Geotécnica, responsible for signing the statement that declared the dam stable last year, got in touch with Mongabay after we published this piece. In a message to us, VogBR’s CEO, André Euzébio, cleared his company of any wrongdoing, saying they had declared the Fundão dam as stable last July, when they last examined the structure “in the most rigorous manner.”