RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian mining large Vale signed an settlement on Thursday to pay $7 billion in compensation to the state of Minas Gerais, two years after the collapse of considered one of its dams killed 270 individuals, inflicting huge environmental injury. Eleven individuals are nonetheless lacking.
Whereas the quantity to be paid was lower than what the state authorities initially demanded, state officers nonetheless known as it the largest ever settlement in Brazilian historical past.
The dam burst destroyed virtually 300 acres of native forest and polluted 200 miles of the native Paraopeba River, rendering it ineffective as a water provide for the state. Traces of the poisonous sludge that got here out of the dam have been discovered within the São Francisco River, which provides water to 5 totally different states.
The dam, constructed to carry waste from a close-by iron ore mine, collapsed on Jan. 25, 2019, within the metropolis of Brumadinho, burying properties, resorts, rivers and the corporate’s amenities underneath a wave of mud. In only some days, it grew to become clear that the corporate had been warned that the construction was unsafe a number of instances, inside paperwork revealed.
A report issued by Tüv Süd, a German firm employed by Vale to audit the dam in 2018, earlier than the collapse, vouched for the dam’s security, although it discovered blocked drainage pipes and cracks. Individually, interviews with staff and members of the family of victims confirmed the corporate had been warned by its personal employees that the dam was leaking.
In 2020, prosecutors investigating the case discovered proof that security stories had been fabricated for a minimum of 10 of Vale’s dams and later charged 16 officers of Vale and the German firm, together with Fabio Schvartsman, who was Vale’s chief government on the time, with murder.
A report by an impartial fee employed by Vale attested that the corporate knew concerning the security dangers on the Brumadinho dam since 2003, and had a number of alerts about it by the years — particularly in 2015 after the same dam partly owned by Vale burst, leaving 19 lifeless.
The catastrophe destroyed not solely swathes of the communities surrounding the dam, but in addition the mine, on which Brumadinho’s 40,000 residents depended. Because the catastrophe, many residents of Brumadinho have been dwelling off money transfers from Vale as compensation for the tragedy.
The deal consists of the continuation of the money switch program for an additional 4 years, restoring the setting in protected areas that have been broken, in addition to initiatives to be outlined by impacted communities.
Luiz Eduardo Osório, the director of institutional relations and sustainability at Vale, celebrated the deal at a ceremony Thursday. “That is the results of months of open dialogue between Vale representatives and members of the federal government,” he stated, declaring that the corporate had “heard the desires of Minas Gerais individuals.”
Nonetheless, many in Brumadinho have been dissatisfied with the outcomes of the negotiation, saying they felt excluded from the method. Roughly 150 individuals protested on the doorways of the state courtroom the place the deal was signed Thursday, saying it excluded the tragedy’s victims. “Vale and the state do an unfair deal,” one signal learn.
Jarbas Soares Júnior, the state’s chief prosecutor, careworn that the deal doesn’t impression different proceedings filed towards Vale and its executives, which embrace corruption and murder prices. Final yr, a state decide agreed to listen to a case that charged 16 individuals.
Mr. Soares Júnior stated the deal was one of the best they might attain, to keep away from a prolonged swimsuit in Brazil’s famously sluggish courtroom system.
“This deal demonstrates that preventive measures carried out with care are a greater choice for corporations,” he stated.
Relations of victims stated they weren’t comforted by the settlement announcement.
Flávia Coelho, 34, stated the day was considered one of mourning, not celebration. It has been two years since she buried her father, Olavo, who died on the dam days after he had warned his superiors catastrophe was imminent.
“He gave 40 years of sincere work to a legal firm,” she stated in an audio message. “Allow them to not overlook our deal, which isn’t about billions, however justice and honor to the employees who misplaced their lives.”
Manuela Andreoni reported from Rio de Janeiro and Letícia Casado from Brasília.