Mariana dam disaster victims to appeal court ruling to drop BHP case

10 November 2020 (Last Updated November 10th, 2020 12:01)

The victims of the Mariana dam disaster in Brazil plan to appeal a judgement after a UK court decided not to proceed with their £5bn ($6.6bn) case against mining major BHP.

Mariana dam disaster victims to appeal court ruling to drop BHP case
The High Court of Manchester passed a ruling not to proceed with a £5bn ($6.6bn) lawsuit against BHP over the Fundão tailings dam failure in 2015. Credit: PGMBM.

The victims of the Mariana dam disaster in Brazil plan to appeal a judgement after a UK court decided not to proceed with their £5bn ($6.6bn) case against mining major BHP.

The appeal was against a ruling passed by a High Court judge Justice Turner in Manchester saying that managing the “largest group claim in English legal history” would be like “trying to build a house of cards in a wind tunnel” and the case was an “abuse of the process of the court”.

Back in 2015, Fundão dam near Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil collapsed at the Samarco project, owned by Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale and BHP.

This incident claimed lives of 19 people after an iron ore tailings dam leak released a large volume of toxic sludge into the Santarém river valley, resulting in flooding that devastated the Bento Rodrigues village.

The dam collapse is regarded as one of the biggest mining disasters in the history of Brazil.

It is also is considered as Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, which created one of the biggest legal claims ever filed in a UK court.

A 200,000-strong Brazilian claimant group is currently seeking compensation for the 2015 dam failure.

Tom Goodhead, a lawyer at international law firm PGMBM representing the 200,000 claimants, called the latest UK court ruling “fundamentally flawed”.

He added: “Elements of the judgment have no proper basis in both English and European law, such that we are overwhelmingly confident that it will be overturned.

“We will continue to fight ceaselessly, for however long it takes, in any court in the world to ensure that BHP are held accountable for their actions.

“BHP have arrogantly and disgracefully labelled this litigation as ‘pointless and wasteful’. They have argued in court that full redress is available to the victims in Brazil when that is fundamentally not the case. The victims see that. The United Nations sees that. And we have every confidence that the Court of Appeal will see that.”

If the appeal of the 200,000 claimants is successful and the case is adjudicated in England, it would be the first legal case relating to the disaster to be heard in UK courts.