RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Faced with public outrage after its second mining dam collapse in four years killed at least 240 people in Brazil, Vale SA misrepresented what it had done to shut down its riskiest dams, a review of the company’s statements shows.
Fabio Schvartsman, Vale’s then-chief executive, said at a nationally broadcast news conference days after the dam burst in late January that the company had already decommissioned nine “upstream dams” in the wake of a 2015 disaster involving the same type of structure, and planned to dismantle 10 more over the next few years. The company repeated the claim in a statement on its website.
Reuters asked Vale for details on these moves on February 5, seven days after Schvartsman’s news conference. In March, some five weeks later, Vale gave Reuters a list of nine dams that it said it had closed since 2014, a year before the Mariana disaster.
They all were smaller structures and not the dangerous upstream type, according to Eduardo Leão, a director of the Brazilian mining regulator ANM, and another expert who reviewed the list for Reuters. Vale also listed the 10 dams that it said it planned to close, including the collapsed one at Brumadinho.
Brazilian prosecutors now are looking into Schvartsman’s declaration that Vale had already shuttered nine upstream dams in response to the 2015 collapse as part of a wider criminal probe into the company’s conduct, an individual close to the investigation said. The widening of the probe has not been previously reported.
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