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8 arrests over deadly Brazil dam collapse

February 15, 2019

Two executives and two managers were among those arrested and could face charges ranging from environmental violations to homicide. They are suspected of having known the danger the dam presented.

Vale logo
Image: Reuters/Washington Alves

Eight employees of the Brazilian mining giant Vale were arrested on Friday over the collapse of a damn in southeastern Brazil. Two executives, two managers, and four technical experts were detained over the rupture that caused the deaths of at least 166 people.

The company issued a statement saying that police had "triggered an operation with the goal to fulfil new warrants served for search and seizure and temporary arrests related to the dam breach of the Dam I of the Corrego de Feijao mine."

On January 25 in the rural area of Brumadinho in Minas Gerais state, the dam filled with 1 million cubic meters (35.3 million cubic feet) of tailings, the residue separated during mining processes, burst and set a landslide of rubbish cascading into the surrounding area. On top of those known to have been killed, 149 are still missing.

German safety certifiers also sought

The eight can initially be held for up to 30 days while prosecutors probe their involvement in what could be hundreds of crimes, from environment violations to homicide. They are suspected of having known that the dam, originally built in 1976, was in risky condition and ignoring the warning signs.

One of the detained executives reportedly pressured the German certification company TüV Süd to sign off on the dam's stability. Arrest warrants have also been issued for four TüV Süd employees.

Research institute Fiocruz has warned that the contamination of the ecosystem and the Paraopeba River could lead to the spread of diseases like dengue and yellow fever.

Vale has already been under fire for a separate dam collapse in 2015, which killed 19 people and spilled millions of tons of toxic waste into the environment.

es/msh (AP, dpa)