BRUMADINHO: Grief over the hundreds of Brazilians feared killed in last week’s mining disaster has quickly hardened into anger as victims’ families and politicians say iron ore miner Vale SA and regulators have learned nothing from the recent past.
By Monday, firefighters in the state of Minas Gerais had confirmed 60 people dead in Friday’s disaster, in which a tailings dam broke sending a torrent of sludge into the miner’s offices and the town of Brumadinho. Nearly 300 other people are unaccounted for, and officials said it was unlikely that any would be found alive.
Shares of Vale, the world’s largest iron ore and nickel producer, plummeted 21.5 per cent in Monday trading on the Sao Paulo stock exchange, erasing $16 billion in market cap. Brazil’s top prosecutor, Raquel Dodge, said the company should be held strongly responsible and criminally prosecuted. Executives could also be personally held responsible, she said.
Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, who is acting president since Monday morning when Jair Bolsonaro underwent surgery, also said the government needs to punish those responsible for the dam disaster.
In a tweet, Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros asked Justice Minister Sergio Moro “how many people should die before federal police changes Vale management, before key evidence disappears.”
One of Vale’s lawyers, Sergio Bermudes, told newspaper Folha de S Paulo that the executives should not leave the company and that Calheiros was trying to profit politically from the tragedy.
Vale Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman said during a visit to Brumadinho on Sunday that facilities there were built to code and equipment had shown the dam was stable two weeks earlier. — Reuters