Murder charges in Vale dam collapse case complicate Brazilian probes – by Marta Nogueira (Reuters U.S. – January 27, 2020)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The filing of murder charges against the former CEO of Brazilian miner Vale SA and 15 others for a 2019 dam collapse that killed more than 250 people was hailed by victims’ families as a major step in bringing those responsible to justice.

But the move by state prosecutors in Brazil’s Minas Gerais risks driving a wedge between their investigation and a parallel probe at the federal level, complicating the judicial process and potentially making convictions less likely, according to a lawyer with knowledge of the case and other legal experts.

Federal investigators are yet to identify the cause of the Jan. 25, 2019 collapse of a tailings dam at the Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine dam east of Brumadinho, which released a sea of mud that slammed into Vale’s offices and cut through a nearby community, killing 259 people and leaving 11 still missing. It was one of the world’s worst mining tragedies.

The final results of a complex study will not be completed until June, they say. That delay has put the state and federal investigations out of synch, recalling the legal problems that dogged the prosecution of a similar mining disaster in Brazil in 2015.

“The charges are a bit of a surprise,” said Davi Tangerino, a lawyer and law professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas in Sao Paulo, “because of the awaited technical study.”

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