Brazil lawsuit against BHP over 2015 dam failure denied appeal in UK

Kirstin Ridley
·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Men take out a bag from a house flooded with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst, in Barra Longa

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - England's Court of Appeal has denied permission for a 200,000-strong Brazilian claimant group to resurrect a 5.0 billion pound ($6.9 billion) lawsuit against Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP over a devastating 2015 dam failure.

"We are both surprised and disappointed by this decision," said Tom Goodhead, managing partner at law firm PGMBM, which is representing the claimants and had hoped to appeal a High Court decision to strike out the claim last November.

"This is a sad day for the English justice system, as the courts dismiss a case based on size and complexity. It sends a poor message about corporate responsibility and legal consequences for wrongdoing," he said.

The collapse of the Fundao dam, owned by the Samarco venture between BHP and Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale, killed 19 and sent a flood of mining waste into communities, the Doce river and the Atlantic Ocean, 650 km (400 miles) away.

It was Brazil's worst environmental disaster.

An English appeal court judge ruled claimants could and were already making claims in Brazil, where a special compensation scheme was in place, and agreed with the High Court that the case would be "irredeemably unmanageable" if allowed to proceed further in England, PGMBM said in a statement.

BHP was not immediately available for comment.

($1 = 0.7284 pounds)

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Edmund Blair)