In November 2015, the Fundão dam at the Samarco mine in Brazil collapsed and over 40 million cubic metres of iron ore mine tailings were released into the Doce river, with catastrophic consequences.
In this context, in late 2018, the largest group claim in English history was commenced against BHP in the English courts on behalf of over 200,000 claimants, against the backdrop of proceedings in Brazil and Australia.
The High Court has struck out the claims as an abuse of process, finding in the alternative that the claims would have been stayed on jurisdictional grounds in any event.
The decision is a significant development in the wider context of claims brought against UK listed companies in connection with the conduct of foreign subsidiaries/JVs in the English courts.
An appeal has been foreshadowed.
The UK High Court has thrown out a £5bn lawsuit against the world’s biggest mining group BHP brought on behalf of more than 200,000 Brazilians seeking damages from a deadly dam failure in 2015. In a judgment published on Monday, Mr Justice Turner struck out the group claim — the largest in English legal history — saying the proceedings amounted to a “clear abuse of process”. “In particular, the claimants’ tactical decision to progress closely related damages claims in the Brazilian and English jurisdictions simultaneously is an initiative the consequences of which, if unchecked, would foist upon the English courts the largest white elephant in the history of group actions,” he said.