Brazilan Prosecutors have charged 21 people with homicide after the Samarco dam collapse

Photo: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilan prosecutors said overnight they have charged 21 people over their roles in the collapse of the Samarco tailings dam that killed 19 people in 2015.

Reuters reports prosecutors told a press conference in Belo Horizonte that executives of the company, owned by Vale and BHP Billiton, knew that the dam could fail but put profit over safety.

Separately the Wall Street Journal said that those charged include “current and former officials of mining giants Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd and their joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA. Among them are former Samarco Chief Executive Ricardo Vescovi, Vale’s current iron-ore director Peter Poppinga, and five Vale and BHP officials who sat on Samarco’s board in recent years”.

If convicted the charges come with a sentence of between 12 and 30 years the journal said.

Here’s a statement from BHP rejecting the charges.

BHP Billiton notes the statement by the Ministerio Público Federal of Brazil (Federal Prosecutors Office) that it has filed criminal charges before the Federal Courts of Ponte Nova, Minas Gerais, against BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda. (BHP Billiton Brasil) and certain employees and former employees of BHP Billiton (Affected Individuals).

We are yet to receive formal notification of these proceedings.

BHP Billiton Brasil rejects outright the charges against the company and the Affected Individuals. We will defend the charges against the company, and fully support each of the Affected Individuals in their defence of the charges against them.

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