A tailings dam collapses on January 25 at Vale’s Córrego de Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, killing at least 259 people when part of its contents reached the company’s administrative area and part of the Vila Ferteco community. (Photo: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama)

Nearly one year after a dam collapse at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil, that killed 259 people and devastated surrounding communities, Brazilian state prosecutors have charged former Chief Executive of Vale SA Fabio Schvartsman and 15 others with homicide for their involvement in the disaster. Prosecutors alleged that these individuals knew about the safety issues with the tailings dam and hid them.

In addition to homicide charges, Vale and TUV SUD, the German company responsible for inspecting the dam, were charged with environmental crimes, as reported by Reuters. Including Schvartsman, 11 people charged worked for Vale and five worked for TUV SUD.

“Vale, with the support of TUV SUD, produced a large amount of technical information about … various dams owned and managed by Vale, that were recognized, I repeat, internally recognized, as dams with an unacceptable risk profile,” said William Garcia Pinto Coelho, a prosecutor on the case.

According to Reuters, more charges at the federal level could be coming. Investigators in Germany are also reported to be looking into the case as well.

In a statement, Vale said the charges of fraud were “perplexing.” “It is important to note that other authorities are investigating the case and, at this point, it is premature to claim there was conscious assumption of risk to cause a deliberate breach of the dam,” the company said.

Vale said it will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities.