by Jennifer Jensen, Associate Editor

On July 9, a Brazilian judge ordered Vale S.A. to pay for all damages caused by the ruptured tailings dam at the Córrego de Feijão Mine in Brumadinho in January that killed 247 people.

According to the local fire department, 23 people are still missing following this tragedy that sent nearly 13 million cubic meters of tailings toward the company’s administrative area and the Vila Ferteco community.

Judge Elton Pupo Nogueira condemned the mining company and said it is responsible for all repairs. He did not set a fixed value for damages, because the consequences still can’t be quantified only by technical-scientific criteria, according to a statement by the court.

According to him, the definition of value “is not limited to deaths due to the event, as it also affects the local and regional environment, in addition to the economic activity in the affected regions.”

The R$11 billion (US$2.9 billion) already frozen by the courts for repairs and relief will continue to be blocked, Judge Nogueira said. He also ordered half of it to be replaced by other financial guarantees. According to the court, Vale wanted the full replacement of this amount in kind, but Nogueira argued that the company made a profit in 2018 of R$25 billion and the amount blocked is equivalent to a half-year of activity.

The judge denied requests for suspension of activities or judicial intervention in the company. He added that there were sufficient guarantees to reimburse all damages and Vale was cooperating with all initiatives requested.

In a statement, Vale said it “reaffirms its total commitment to the prompt and fair reparation of damages caused to the families, to the infrastructure of communities and to the environment.”

This was the second dam failure by a company owned by Vale. The first occurred in 2015 at Samarco, owned by Vale and BHP, which killed 19 people and devastated the local community in Minas Gerais.