NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BHPBilliton (BHP) - Get Report stock is plunging by 7.51% to $22.28 in afternoon trading on Wednesday, after Brazilian police accused six Samarco executives and one contractor of murder in relation to a dam burst that killed 19 people in November, Reuters reports.
The Brazilian mining company Samarco is a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Vale. Vale shares are down by nearly 6% this afternoon.
The police have accused the executives of "qualified homicide," which carries a sentence of prison timing ranging between 12 and 30 years.
They allege that filling the dam beyond capacity paired with insufficient monitoring and faulty equipment caused the dam to burst, Reuters adds.
Although prosecutors alone can formally bring criminal charges against people, public accusations often foreshadow the filing of charges, Reuters notes.