The London Court of Appeal did an about-face on Tuesday by agreeing to reopen a $ 7 billion lawsuit by 200,000 plaintiffs against Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP, relaunching a case over a dam failure behind the world’s worst environmental disaster from Brazil.
Lawyers for one of the largest collective claims in English legal history have pushed to resuscitate the 5 billion ($ 6.9 billion) lawsuit against BHP since a lower court struck down the abuse lawsuit last year and that a judge of the court of appeal upheld this decision. in March.
But in a highly unusual move, three appeals court judges backed down on Tuesday and granted leave to appeal, saying they believed there was a real prospect of success.
The 2015 collapse of the Fundao dam, owned by the Samarco company between BHP and the Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale, killed 19 villages and wiped out as a torrent of more than 40 million meters Cubes of mining waste swept across the Doce River and the Atlantic Ocean for 650 km (400 miles).
Tom Goodhead, a managing partner of PGMBM who is making the claim on behalf of Brazilian individuals, businesses, churches, organizations, municipalities and indigenous peoples, called it a monumental judgment.
Frederico de Assis Faria, attorney general of the hard-hit district of Mariana in Brazil, said victims now have the opportunity to obtain real justice six years after the disaster.
BHP, the world’s largest mining company by market value, called the deal pointless and wasteful, saying it duplicated procedures in Brazil and the work of the Renova Foundation, an entity created by the company and its Brazilian partners to manage repairs and repairs.
BHP’s position remains that the procedure does not belong to the UK, he said in a statement.
Contacted in Brazil, Vale declined to comment.
A good day for justice
The case was revived after PGMBM in April requested an oral hearing of the court of appeal reserved only for exceptional cases and argued that the appeals judge had not properly debated the arguments on why the ‘case is expected to continue.
Martyn Day, the lawyer for Leigh Day who took on miner Vedanta and oil giant Shell in English courts on behalf of villagers over alleged pollution in Zambia and oil spills in the Niger Delta respectively, praised decision.
It is very unusual for the court of appeal to use this mechanism [of an oral hearing] for reviewing a decision of another member of the court, he said. A good day for justice.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that most of their clients have not initiated proceedings in Brazil, that they have the right to sue BHP in England, and that the Brazilian litigation is so long that it cannot provide a full repair within a realistic timeframe.
The lawsuit is the final battle to establish whether multinationals can be held responsible for the conduct of overseas subsidiaries in their own territory.
The appeal is expected to be heard next year and any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court in London.
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