BHP & Vale lawsuit (re dam collapse in Brazil, filed in the UK)
Snapshot: In 2015, two mining dams operated by Samarco Mineração SA, a joint venture of Vale and BHP, collapsed in Brazil. This led to multiple lawsuits being filed in Brazil, Australia, the US and the UK. Lawsuits incude allegations for negligence in operating the dam brought by shareholders and a claim for damages by the victims of the dam collapse and their families. This case profile looks at proceedings in the UK.
Proceedings in the UK
In November 2018, more than 240,000 plaintiffs, including Brazilian municipalities and Krenak indigenous communities, filed a lawsuit at the UK High Court in Liverpool against BHP Billiton. The lawsuit seeks $US5 billion in compensation for damages caused by the dam collapse. The full claim was served in May 2019 and the company has four weeks to respond.
In April 2020, a British judge postponed proceedings in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales due to coronavirus travel restrictions. Currently, proceedings are set to resume in late July. The hearing will decide whether the mining company can be sued in England for £5 billion.
In July 2020, parties presented oral argument for whether the case can be brought in English court. The Court's decision will have significant impact on cases against English corporations for their extraterritorial abuse.
In November 2020, the High Court dismissed the lawsuit, a judge in Manchester ruling 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”.