SAO PAULO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Brazil's federal police informed mining company Samarco Mineração S.A. that some of its executives are accused of crimes relating to a dam burst in November that killed 17 people, a company representative said on Wednesday.
Brazilian news website G1 said miner Vale SA, which co-owns Samarco along with BHP Billiton , Samarco Chief Executive Ricardo Vescovi, and a consulting firm that had audited the broken dam were also accused of unspecified crimes.
The federal police could not be reached to confirm the report. In Brazil, only prosecutors, not police, can press formal charges and open a lawsuit, but the police accusations could be a sign charges are on the way.
Vale said in a statement it had been surprised by reports of the accusations and would prove that Vale was not responsible.
Vale and Samarco are already facing civil lawsuits over the November disaster but individual executives of the companies have not yet been prosecuted in what the government considers Brazil's worst-ever environmental disaster.
Samarco said in a statement it did not agree with the accusations as a technical analysis of the causes of the dam burst had not been completed. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Bill Rigby)