Six top executives of iron ore miner Samarco, a joint venture between BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Vale (NYSE:VALE), and one contractor have been accused of homicide over the deaths of 19 people who were killed in a dam burst last November.
Brazilian police in the state of Minas Gerais recommended “qualified homicide” charges for the chief executive of Samarco at the time, Ricardo Vescovi, and six others, local newspaper Veja reported (in Portuguese).
In Brazil only prosecutors, and not police, can legally bring criminal charges, but accusations from officials often precede formal charges.
People charged with “qualified homicide” — the Brazilian equivalent of involuntary manslaughter — face between 12 to 30 years in prison.
Police have also accused the seven individuals of endangering public health by polluting the region’s drinking water. They warned they would carry out a further criminal investigation over the next month related to the environmental impact of the mining disaster.
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