Minas Gerais state investigators issued a total of five arrest warrants and seven search warrants on suspicion of murder, falsification of documents and environmental crimes, a judge’s decision showed.
The collapse of the dam in the hilly, pastoral region has killed at least 84 people, according to firefighters’ count on Tuesday evening, with another 276 missing and likely dead.
The search and recovery efforts have taken their toll on weary firefighters, helicopter pilots and volunteers.
José Eustáquio da Silva, 63, the head of cemeteries in Brumadinho, has also been working long days with the team digging the town’s new graves with picks and shovels.
“All I see is sadness and hopelessness,” he said, overlooking a hillside pocked with 98 fresh graves – only five of which had been filled.
Chief Financial Officer Luciano Siani said Vale was doing all it could, offering money to mourners, extra tax payments to local government, a special membrane to remove mud from the river and major investments to make its dams safer.
Yet residents in the devastated town of Brumadinho have been unmoved, watching in shock and anger as one dead body after another has been pulled from the mud.
Following a deadly 2015 tailings dam collapse just a few towns over at a mine half-owned by Vale, the disaster remained unforgivable in the eyes of many Brazilians.