(Reuters) – A 200,000-strong Brazilian group of complainants said on Wednesday that it had failed to revive a £ 5.0 billion ($ 6.9 billion) English lawsuit against the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP due to a devastating Dammfel 2015. The Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that the extensive group action was an abuse of process, that the complainants could already seek redress in Brazil and that the case would be "irrevocably impossible to handle" if they were allowed to continue.
Tom Goodhead, the PGMBM lawyer representing the applicants, said it was "a sad day for the English judiciary" after the Supreme Court agreed that the allegation of Brazil's worst environmental disaster should be erased.
The collapse of the Fundao Dam, owned by the Samarco venture between BHP and the Brazilian iron ore giant Vale, killed 1
The landmark case was a lazy battle to determine whether multinational companies could be held responsible for the construction of subsidiaries abroad.
The UK's Supreme Court in 2019 allowed Zambian villagers to sue miner Vedanta in England for alleged pollution in Africa and in February allowed Nigerian farmers and fishermen to continue the Royal Dutch Shell over oil spills in the Niger Delta.
But the English claim against the BHP was only rejected in November after a Supreme Court judge decided to let it continue here would be like "trying to build a house of cards in a wind tunnel."
Mr Goodhead said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal, which sent "a bad message about corporate responsibility and legal consequences for errors."
"We are determined to support the victims of this tragedy. We will now make an evaluation and assess our options for how justice can best be achieved, ”he said.
The BHP welcomed the decision, which in turn reinforced its view that the procedure duplicated existing and ongoing reorganization and legal proceedings in Brazil. . It said it remained fully committed to doing the "right thing" for the victims.
BHP says that it and Vale poured about $ 1.7 billion into the Renova Foundation, which was set up in 2016 by BHP's Brazilian division, Samarco and Vale, to handle 42 repair projects, including providing financial support to domestic families, reconstruction of villages and the establishment of new water supply systems.
BHP said that Renova has spent almost 12 billion reais ($ 2.17 billion) on the projects to date.
A UN expert report, published in September, said the disaster reduced the livelihoods of more than three million people and left locals exposed to dust and heavy metals in mud, that information on toxicity was insufficient and that all repair projects were on schedule.
In October, Brazilian federal prosecutors brought an action against BHP and Vale, claiming that the compensation packages were too low and forcing the victims to waive rights in other legal proceedings.
Renova h who insisted that projects such as water quality monitoring and environmental repairs are on the right track, while the miners reject accusations that they do not fulfill obligations and errors.