Brumadinho victims take Vale deal to Supreme Court

Workers survey the damage at the Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil. Photo by Diego Baravelli/Wikimedia Commons.

The People Affected by Dams Association (MAB) and the Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM), along with left political parties PT and PSOL are seeking a Supreme Court order against the deal signed by Vale and the government of Minas Gerais, Brazil, for the reparation of the socio-economic and environmental damage caused by the Brumadinho dam collapse in 2019.

They say the settlement was signed without the participation of the victims and that 20,000 people who were impacted by the disaster were excluded from the deal.

Vale executives and members of the government of Minas Gerais signed the R$37.6 billion (US$7 billion) deal on February 4. The associations say that only R$7.4 billion (US$1.37 billion) will be directed to the victims.

The government of Minas Gerais relies heavily on these funds to pay back salaries of state employees and to finance the reelection of the current governor Romeu Zema in 2022.

Minas Gerais governor Romeu Zema signs the agreement over the Brumadinho disaster (Credit: Imprensa Minas Gerais)

According to Zema, about 30% of the US$7 billion will be invested in the city of Brumadinho, but the victims claim the governor’s plan to build roads, hospitals, and schools will not benefit them directly.

“The agreement was reached between Vale and the governor without going through local parliament,” Jozeli Andrioli, an MAB spokesman, said in a media statement. “The road, for example, will benefit Vale’s own production, not the local community.” 

The victims also allege part of the agreement was to stop impact studies.

“Many people to this day do not have access to drinking water,” said Maria Julia Zanon, a member of the MAB.

“We do not want the agreement to be canceled but to be revised. The deal was signed by the state government and Vale. They were to blame for the tragedy. What about the victims?”

Vale said in an email to MINING.com that it has no comment.

Federal Police in Minas Gerais expect to receive the forensic report by the end of March on the cause of the tailings liquefaction that led to the dam collapse.

In September 2019, Brazilian police indicted Vale, the testing service TÜV SÜD and 13 employees of the two companies for producing misleading documents about the safety of the dam. Each of these alleged crimes can yield from three years to six years, and can reach a total of 18 years in prison.

In January 2020, Vale SA’s former CEO Fabio Schvartsman was charged with homicide after an investigation conducted by the Minas Gerais police, but the federal investigation is still ongoing and Vale’s lawyers can challenge the charge based on the results of the federal investigation results. Other former employees were also accused of homicide.

The Fire Brigade of Minas Gerais resumed the search in August 2020 for the missing bodies of 11 victims of the dam collapse. Work had been halted in March due to pandemic protocols. The operation includes 60 military personnel.

 

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