LONDON – A £5-billion English lawsuit against Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP has been blocked, in a blow to a 200 000-strong Brazilian claimant group, seeking damages after a devastating dam failure in 2015.
A High Court judge in Manchester, northwestern England, struck out the largest group claim in English legal history because the complex case was an "abuse of the process of the court", a judgment published on Monday said.
Tom Goodhead, a partner at law firm PGMBM, which is representing the claimants, called the judgment "fundamentally flawed" and pledged to appeal.
BHP, the world's largest miner by market value, clashed with claimants during an eight-day jurisdiction hearing in July in the latest battle to establish whether multinationals can be held liable for the conduct of subsidiaries abroad.
The judge's decision comes about 18 months after the United Kingdom's Supreme Court ruled that nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers could sue miner Vedanta in England for alleged pollution in Africa because substantial justice was not obtainable in Zambia.
The collapse of the Fundao tailings dam, which stored mining waste and is owned by the Samarco joint venture between BHP and Brazilian iron-ore mining giant Vale, killed 19 and sent a torrent of red mud into communities and the Doce river that reached the Altantic Ocean, 650 km away.
Despite a more deadly dam rupture in 2019, that killed about 270 in nearby Brumadinho, the Fundao dam disaster in Brazil's "iron quadrangle" in southeastern Minas Gerais state ranks as the country's worst environmental disaster.