The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) denied an order against the deal signed by Vale and the government of Minas Gerais for the reparation of the socio-economic and environmental damages caused by the Brumadinho dam collapse in 2019.
The People Affected by Dams Association (MAB) and the Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM), along with left political parties PT and PSOL argued that the settlement was signed without the participation of the victims and that 20,000 people who were impacted by the disaster were excluded from the deal.
In his decision, STF minister Marco Aurelio Mello ruled that the entities should have appealed to a lower court, and did not present arguments that would require direct action by the Supreme Court.
The minister considered that the decision could be questioned in other instances of Justice before appealing to the STF.
The MAB association told MINING.COM will appeal the decision.
Vale executives and members of the government of Minas Gerais signed the R$ 37.6 billion ($7bn) deal on February 4. The associations say that only R$ 7.4 billion ($1.37bn) will be directed to the victims.
The government of Minas Gerais relies heavily on these funds to pay back salaries of state employees and to finance the re-election of the current governor Romeu Zema in 2022.
According to Zema, about 30% of the $7 billion will be invested in the city of Brumadinho, but the victims claim the governor’s plan to build roads, hospitals, and schools will not benefit them directly.
“The agreement was reached between Vale and the governor without going through local parliament, Jozeli Andrioli, MAB spokesman said in a media statement.
“The road, for example, will benefit Vale’s own production, not the local community,” Andrioli said.
“Many people to this day do not have access to drinking water,” said Maria Julia Zanon, a member of the MAB.
“We do not want the agreement to be canceled but to be revised. The deal was signed by the state government and Vale,” Zanon said. “They were to blame for the tragedy. What about the victims?”
Vale said in an email to MINING.com that it has no comment.
Federal Police in Minas Gerais, Brazil, expect to receive the forensic report by the end of March on the cause of the tailings liquefaction that led to the dam collapse.
In September 2019, Brazilian police indicted Vale, the testing service TÜV SÜD and 13 employees of the two companies for producing misleading documents about the safety of the dam. Each of these crimes can yield from 3 years to 6 years, and can reach a total of 18 years in prison.
In January 2020, Vale SA’s former chief executive officer Fabio Schvartsman was charged with homicide after an investigation conducted by the Minas Gerais police, but the federal investigation is still ongoing and Vale’s lawyers can challenge the charge based on the results of the federal investigation results. Other former employees were also accused of homicide.
The Fire Brigade of Minas Gerais resumed the search in August 2020 for still missing bodies of 11 victims of the dam collapse. Work had been halted in March due to pandemic protocols. The operation includes 60 military personnel.