A total of 15 to 20 people are expected to be indicted in relation to the early 2019 collapse of the tailings dam at Vale SA's Feijao iron ore mine in Brazil, Reuters reported Jan. 8, citing Andressa de Oliveira Lanchotti, coordinator of a task force of prosecutors.
The group expected to be charged includes executives from the mining giant, employees from German inspection company TÜV SÜD AG and the two companies themselves, according to the report.
The tailings dam collapse resulted in at least 259 deaths with another 11 people reportedly remaining missing. Lanchotti said criminal charges are anticipated within the next few days, although prosecutors did not clarify if they were planning to charge current or former Vale executives.
Lanchotti also highlighted a conflict of interest between the two parties, while prosecutors noted that another inspection company was fired after refusing to sign off on the Feijao dam.
"There was a conflict of interest between TÜV SÜD and Vale because TÜV SÜD had lucrative contracts with Vale for other activities, to decommission dams, which makes obvious the regulatory shortcomings here," Lanchotti said.
An expert panel hired by Vale to investigate the tailings dam failure concluded in December 2019 that the incident and resulting flow slide were the result of flow liquefaction, or sudden loss of strength, within the tailings in the dam.