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Vale's ex-CEO among 16 charged with homicide in Brazil dam disaster

Brazilian state prosecutors have charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of miner Vale, and 15 other people with homicide for a dam disaster last year that killed more than 250 people, according to the charging document seen by Reuters.

More than 250 people were killed Jan. 25, 2019, in the town of Brumadinho

Former Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman was fired in March 2019, weeks after the deadly disaster at the Brumadinho mine. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Brazilian state prosecutors have charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of miner Vale, and 15 other people with homicide for a dam disaster last year that killed more than 250 people, according to the charging document seen by Reuters.

In addition to homicide charges, Vale S.A. and TÜV SÜD, the company responsible for inspecting the dam, were charged with environmental crimes.

Prosecutors said the 16 individuals charged had worked for Vale or TÜV SÜD, which has its global headquarters in Germany. 

The charges, which come almost exactly one year after the collapse of the Vale dam in the state of Minas Gerais, represent a major step forward in Brazilian authorities' attempt to hold individuals criminally responsible for the disaster.

Andressa de Oliveira Lanchotti, a state prosecutor, told Reuters earlier this month that Vale and TÜV SÜD employees knew the dam was at risk of collapsing and failed to act. She said state prosecutors believed TÜV SÜD had a significant interest in signing off on the dam's security, particularly after Vale had fired a different inspection firm that declined to do so.

The collapse of the Vale tailings dam on Jan. 25, 2019, in the town of Brumadinho was one of the world's deadliest mining disasters and knocked $19 billion US off Vale's market value in a single day.

Vale shares were down 2.5 per cent in afternoon trading in Sao Paulo.

In a statement, TÜV SÜD said it "continues to be deeply saddened by the tragic collapse of the dam in Brumadinho," and that the company's thoughts "are with the victims and their families."

The company also said it believes the causes of the accident had not yet been definitively determined.

"We continue offering our co-operation to authorities in Brazil and Germany regarding ongoing investigations," the company said.

Federal prosecutors and police are also investigating the Brumadinho disaster and could bring additional charges at the federal level in the future.

Vale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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