Brazil probe into Vale dam collapse to conclude within days, prosecutor says

By Marta Nogueira
FILE PHOTO: A view of a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho

By Marta Nogueira

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A criminal investigation into the fatal collapse of a dam owned by mining firm Vale SA should be concluded in the coming days, a Brazilian prosecutor said on Tuesday, with charges to follow.

"State prosecutors are working with the state police, federal prosecutors and federal police, and we're of the conviction that we'll deliver a solution in the coming days," Antônio Sérgio Tonet, the top prosecutor in the state of Minas Gerais, told journalists.

"We're going to conclude our investigations and bring the guilty to justice," he said.

In January, a tailings dam at a Vale-owned mine in Minas Gerais collapsed, unleashing more than 12 million cubic meters of mining waste on the small town of Brumadinho and killing hundreds. It was the second fatal burst at a Vale-linked dam in the state in just over three years.

In the months since, prosecutors have identified ample evidence that employees at Vale and the Brazilian division of Germany's TUV SUD, which inspected the dam, were aware of elevated risks associated with the structure. Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters reported that Vale misrepresented the steps it had taken to mitigate safety issues following the first dam collapse in 2015.

Tonet's comments came as an investigative committee set up by Minas Gerais' state assembly delivered a report to the prosecutor suggesting that 11 Vale employees and two TUV SUD employees be indicted for their alleged roles in the disaster.

In July, a federal Senate panel suggested that Vale's chief financial officer and its chief executive at the time of the incident should be indicted for murder.

The company could also face charges.

In a statement, Vale said it "respectfully disagrees with the suggestion to indict the company's employees and executives of the company.

"Vale considers it fundamental that there be a expertise-based, technical and scientific conclusion about the causes of the rupture of the B1 dam before responsibility is determined," the company said, adding that it would continue collaborating with investigators.




(Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Additional reporting by Roberto Samora in Sao Paulo; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)