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Brazil miner Vale quashed efforts to validate dam safety before disaster - prosecutor

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Brazil miner Vale quashed efforts to validate dam safety before disaster - prosecutor
A soldier helps a member of a rescue team on Paraopeba River as they search for victims of a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado   -   Copyright  Adriano Machado(Reuters)
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SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Executives at Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, quashed efforts by Brazilian authorities to audit one of its mining dams months before it collapsed and killed over 300 people, a state prosecutor said, according to the news website G1.

William Garcia, a prosecutor in Minas Gerais where the January disaster occurred, told G1 his office had filed subpoenas with Vale last June to review safety documents regarding Vale’s dam in Brumadinho.

But Vale’s lawyers responded in November and did not provide those documents, arguing they had received positive reviews by an auditor the firm had hired, the German firm Tuv Sud, he said.

Tuv Sud “was used to make it more difficult for prosecutors to investigate and hide from public view the state of that dam, which was so critical that less than two months later it broke,” Garcia said at an anti-corruption event in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais.

In a statement, Vale said it had asked for the prosecutor’s inquiries to be dismissed because it “fully trusted” that Tuv Sud’s reports and the company’s broader safety measures “proved the stability of the dam in accordance with the law.”

Investigators have been scrutinizing the relationship between Vale and Tuv Sud, which had certified the dam as safe, including allegations the auditor was hired after another firm declined to certify the structures as safe.

Tuv Sud and Vale declined to comment. Garcia did not respond to a request for comment.

The tailings dam at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine burst on Jan. 25, releasing a torrent of mining waste that buried workers and local residents in the nearby town of Brumadinho.

In the wake of the latest incident, Vale set up a three-person committee to carry out its own investigation into what caused the dam to break.

On Wednesday, the company said it had appointed Manuel Martins, a consultant, to the committee to replace Jean-Pierre Remy, who was previously a consultant to prosecutors who investigated an earlier collapse of a Vale dam in 2015.

(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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