Legal action continues to mount against Samarco joint venture

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Brazilian Police have accused six Samarco executives of homicide over the deaths of 19 people in the tragic Samarco Mineracao tailings dam collapse and subsequent mudslide.

The Minas Gerais police have recommended charges of “qualified homicide” be laid against former Samarco chief executive Ricardo Vescovi, five other executives and one contractor.

The penalty for qualified homicide is between 12 to 30 years in prison. To date two of the 19 dead have not been found.

The same seven individuals have also been accused of endangering the public health by polluting drinking water in the area’s waterways.

Police will carry out a criminal investigation over the next month, looking into the environmental impact of the spill which sent millions of tonnes of tailings slurry into the local river system, choking flora and fauna.

Samarco joint venture partner BHP has come under fire in the US over the November 6 tragedy, with investors accusing the company of fraudulently overstating its ability to manage safety risks at the mine.

This week the Jackson County Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan filed a complaint in the US District Court of Manhattan that BHP inflated the price of American depository receipts (ADRs) by ignoring safety risks and overstating their commitment to safety prior to the Samarco spill.

The value of ADRs fell 20 per cent immediately following the Samarco spill, and investors say they should be compensated for that loss.

“Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded the precarious condition of the Fundão dam and Samarco’s tailings facilities,” the claimants said.

Four BHP officials including CEO Andrew MacKenzie and chairman Jac Nasser have been sued over the matter.

BHP told Reuters they would “vigorously defend the matter”.

Last year BHP was sued by the Federal Union of Brazil and the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo for $R20.2 billion ($7 billion AUD) for damages caused by the spill.

Vale has reported $US132 million in impairments as a result of the Samarco disaster, relating to declared but unpaid dividends and royalties.

Pre-operating and stoppage expenses were up $US27 after the closure of the mine.

A statement from Vale showed the joint venture had provided first aid, food, water, housing, social assistance and financial aid to affected families and individuals, including 369 families who lost their homes, and recovered the seven bridges affected by the dam failure.

Vale recently announced the current chairman, Dan Antonio Marinho, will be stepping down to be replaced Previ pension fund president Gueitiro Matsuo Genso.