By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday Brazil’s Federal Police charged Samarco’s director-president and six other executives and technicians for environmental crimes in connections with the spill of over 32 million cubic meters of toxic residues from its mining operations into the Rio Doce (Sweet River).

Brazil, Minas Gerais, dam bursts, Samarco
The region of Bento Rodrigues, in Mariana was devastated in early November after a dam from mining company Samarco burst, photo by Antonio Cruz/AgBr.

In addition to Samarco’s president, Ricardo Vescovi, the coordinator of dam monitoring, the geotechnical manager, the general manager of projects, the technician responsible for the dam as well as an engineer from VogBR consultancy, who was responsible for the report that indicated stability of the dam that burst, were also indicted. Brazil’s mining giant, Vale, one of Samarco’s owners was also charged.

The federal police is charging the executives and the companies, among other things with polluting the waters of the river, causing damages to human health, death of animals and destruction of vegetation. The penalty, if found guilty, is of a prison term of anywhere from six months to five years and fines.

A release on Vale’s website states that the company received the news of the indictment with surprise since ‘the real causes of the accident have not been technically asserted, and therefore are still unknown’.

On November 5th, thousands of liters of toxic water flooded the small municipality of Bento Rodrigues due to a collapsed dam owned by Samarco, killing at least seventeen people. The mud produced by the dirt and the water produced an estimated 50,000 tons of mud, which ran along the Rio Doce all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Towns along the river had their drinking water supply temporarily cut off due to possible contamination and entire communities of fishermen have been unable to work because of the contamination of fish and sea life.

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