Vale CEO steps down over dam disaster

Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman in a helicopter overlooking the breach. Image: Vale

Vale chief executive officer Fabio Schvartsman has resigned from his role following the controversy of the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster in Brazil in January.

The outgoing CEO’s resignation is temporary in nature, however, which allows for the potential of reinstatement in future.

Schvartsman, who served in the position since April 2017, will be replaced by chief executive of base metals Eduardo Bartolomeo.

Schvartsman joined other executives such as executive director of ferrous and coal Gerd Peter Poppinga, head of planning Lucio Flavio Gallon Cavalli, and head of operations of the southeast corridor, Silmar Magalhães Silva, who have all requested a temporary removal from office.

The Brumadinho disaster occurred in the mining region of Minas Gerais on January 25 when a tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine collapsed, releasing a mudflow that killed at least 186 people, with 122 more still missing.

It is the second tailings dam breach Vale has been involved with in recent years, following on from the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster in November 2015 that occurred at an iron ore mine owned by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale and Australian producer BHP.

Schvartsman’s resignation letter was published in full by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo on March 2 before being picked up and reprinted in English by Reuters. According to the the Brazilian paper, Schvartsman’s removal came at the recommendation of state prosecutors.

“I am absolutely convinced that the way I have acted personally, as well as the rest of our executive board … has been absolutely appropriate, correct, and, mainly, loyal to our non-negotiable values of upholding operational security as a company,” Schvartsman said in his letter.

In a statement released on Saturday confirming the shuffle, Vale said that its board of directors remained ready to seek “a transparent and productive relationship with the Brazilian authorities in order to clarify the facts, to properly remediate the damages and to maintain the company’s integrity”.

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