Brazil’s Vale fired an inspector which failed its Brumadinho dam over safety concerns just months before the dam collapsed, likely killing hundreds, prosecutors have alleged.
Over 300 people are dead or missing after the dam broke in the state of Minas Gerais earlier this year, unleashing a wave of mining waste.
Prosecutors claim the iron miner fired inspector Tractebel, part of French Engie, after it failed the dam.
Instead, it hired Germany’s TUV SUD, which signed off on the dam, despite evidence it was “way below” the recommended safety level, prosecutors said.
Several top bosses at Vale, including chief executive Fabio Schvartsman, stepped down at the weekend, just a day after prosecutors recommended they be temporarily removed.
Prosecutors say it was “recurrent practice” for Vale to pressure inspectors to give dams the thumbs up even if they “violated the required technical specifications”.
Vale’s geotechnical unit “acted in a systematic form to certify as stable dams which didn’t meet the legal parameters stipulated by the company itself, so much so that on more than one occasion the geotechnical area replaced external auditors who refused to make spurious declarations,” prosecutors allege.
The disaster has caused whiplash in the mining sector, with companies rallying behind efforts to safeguard against more tragedy.
Last week the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which has 27 member from the sector, said it would establish an independent expert panel to develop an international standard for so-called tailings dams.
Council chief executive Tom Butler said: “The standard will be based on best practices to ensure that tailings facility risks are managed appropriately, consistently, and transparently.
“While the standard would become a member commitment, ICMM will encourage others to join us in advocating for it to be adopted more broadly.”
Meanwhile, Brazil has banned the type of dam which caused the accident.