A landmark case brought by a Brazilian claimant group against mining giant BHP over a burst dam has been struck out by the High Court.
A High Court judge in Manchester said managing the 200,000-strong claimant group would be like “trying to build a house of cards in a wind tunnel” and said the case was an “abuse of the process of the court”.
BHP welcomed the decision but PGMB’s managing director Tom Goodhead, representing the claimants, vowed to appeal the “fundamentally flawed” judgment.
“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,” he said.
Claimants brought the £5bn lawsuit, the biggest group claim in English history, following the country’s worst environmental disaster. The Fundao tailings dam, owned by the Samarco joint venture between Brazilian iron ore mining firm Vale and BHP, collapsed in 2015 and killed 19 people.
The claimant group alleged senior BHP executives sat on Samarco’s board, that representatives knew and approved plans to increase the dam’s capacity and ignored safety warnings.
BHP said the joint venture had given approximately $1.7bn to the Renova Foundation, set up in 2016, to manage 42 reparation projects. Among them included rebuilding villages and establishing new water supply systems.
BHP said it is committed to “doing the right thing” and called for the case to be put on hold or struck out. It argued that the UK case duplicated proceedings in Brazil.
Lawyers for the claimants claimed that under Brazilian law, liability for the damage could be imposed on the defendant’s ultimate owner.
Last week Brazilian federal prosecutors filed a case appealing a compensation package for victims arguing it is too low. It comes after they accused BHP and Vale of colluding with a lawyer to reduce compensation for the victims.