The Business Courts of England and Wales have rejected Brazilian mining giant Vale’s request and decided to make it a co-defendant alongside Anglo-Australian mining company BHP in a R$211.6bn reais ($44bn) lawsuit resulting from the 2015 Fundão dam collapse in Brazil.
The collapse swept 40 million cubic metres of mud and toxic mining waste into the Doce River, killing 19 people.
As a result, more than 700,000 Brazilians, alongside municipalities and indigenous groups, have sued BHP. The claimants are being represented by legal company Pogust Goodheed and the trial is expected to start in October 2024.
The dam was owned and operated by Samarco, a joint venture (JV) between BHP and Vale.
In December 2022, BHP applied to have Vale join the case and contribute to damages from the 2015 disaster should they lose. However, Vale challenged the London High Court’s jurisdiction to determine BHP’s claim.
In a press statement, Vale said: “Vale’s request was made in the context of the contribution claim filed by BHP against Vale on 2 December 2022, in which BHP requests the sharing of any reflection in a class action filed against BHP in England, for alleged damages caused by the Fundao dam collapse in Mariana.”
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However, Vale’s appeal has been rejected by Judge Finola O’Farrell in a written decision.
O’Farrell asserted that the dispute should be resolved as part of the ongoing proceedings because BHP’s claim against Vale substantially mirrored the claimants’ claims against BHP.
Vale said that its legal advisers will present the appropriate measures following careful consideration of the court’s ruling.
Pogust Goodhead CEO Tom Goodhead was quoted by Reuters as saying: “It’s time for BHP and Vale to both do the right thing and to engage with the claimants in this case in order to affect an effective resolution.”
Vale has also reaffirmed its commitment to repairing the damage caused by the dam collapse, under the agreements signed with the Brazilian authorities.