Mining company Vale could become a defendant in the United Kingdom in a process to determine liability for the Mariana (MG) tragedy. Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton is already a target of this process. The matter was discussed for two days in the hearing held in London and concluded today Thursday (13). No date to decide yet.
The tragedy occurred in November 2015 when a dam owned by Samarco, a mining company located in the Marianas, collapsed. In the episode, an avalanche swept through the Rio Dos basin, affecting dozens of municipalities in Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo. Nineteen people died.
Vale is one of Samarco’s two shareholders. The other is BHP Billiton, which is headquartered in London and is responding to a pending process in a UK court since 2018. It was moved by thousands of affected people represented by the office of Bogust Goodhead. Municipalities, companies and religious institutions that claim to be affected by the tragedy are also part of the process.
Employment in this process was requested by BHP Billiton. The Anglo-Australian mining company alleges that if convicted in the UK, Vale should be held liable in the country to pay at least 50% of the damages.
BHP Billiton’s claim was filed after the UK courts dismissed the case. The mining company has previously claimed there was a duplication of judgments and argued that the settlement of damages should only take place under the supervision of Brazilian courts. On the other hand, the protection of the victims says that Brazil has not been able to ensure fair compensation. In March, 500,000 new teachers joined the process. In this way, now more than 700 thousand people and companies are represented by the Bogost Goodhead office.
In Brazil, all compensation measures are managed by the Renova Foundation, created in 2016 under an agreement signed between the three mining companies Union and the governments of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo. It manages more than 40 projects. But nearly eight years later, its effectiveness has been the target of several judicial questions by victims and public officials. Discussions ranged from delays in completing reconstruction work to compensation in the tragedy-hit districts.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Minas Gerais (MPMG) has asked the Renova Trust to dissolve the three mining companies, deeming them lacking the necessary autonomy. Efforts to renegotiate the compensation process have been ongoing since last year, potentially leading to a resolution to more than 85,000 cases of the tragedy.
In a hearing held over the past two days, Vale argued that a UK judge did not have jurisdiction to assess the case, aligning itself with the position already taken by BHP Billiton. In a note, the mining company said that more than R$ 30.05 billion in resources were assigned to the Renova Foundation for the compensation of more than 417.5 thousand people. “Any damages awarded in a class action [movida no Reino Unido] The values already obtained by the same authors in Brazil, through private agreements or court decisions, should be taken into account”, adds the text published by Vale.
Outside the court, families of the victims staged a protest. Residents of the affected areas and representatives of various tribal communities attended. The Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) released a demonstration by its coordinator Josili Andreoli, who was part of the entourage.
“We know Brazilian justice is flawed and Vale wants to be tried there because it has influence. For eight years he has ensnared the victims of the country’s biggest socio-environmental crime. We hope Vale will be tried here and fully compensated for the victims.
The office of Boguest Goodhead, which represents the victims, released a statement from attorney Tom Goodhead. “Two of the world’s largest mining companies are engaged in a legal battle to determine who should be held responsible for this heinous crime, when what really needs to be discussed is eight years of compensation for victims. They are wasting time, energy and resources instead of sitting down with the victims and solving this case. They are not facing the consequences of their negligence. It is a disgusting sight. .”
In a statement, BHP said it would continue to defend itself in the UK courts and that it considered the process unnecessary because it duplicated issues covered by the Renova Foundation’s work or the subject of legal debates in Brazil. According to the text, Vale’s request for inclusion is a necessary procedural step, so responsibilities are shared at the time of the payment order.
According to the note, the situation will not affect relations between the two mining companies. BHP Billiton says it will continue to work closely to support ongoing remedial action. “In total, more than 200,000 plaintiffs in English actions have already received some form of payment in Brazil”, the text adds.
Judgment in 2024
Action in the United Kingdom was suspended at an early stage, and it was still being debated whether the case could be analyzed in the country. Without going into the merits of the issue, English judge Mark Turner held that there was abuse, among others, in 2020, as both Brazil and the United Kingdom could have sentences that could not be commuted through concurrent trials.
According to the judge, there was insufficient evidence that the Brazilian judge was unable to ensure fair compensation. However, in July 2022, the Court of Appeal accepted the victims’ appeal and determined that the merits of the case should be analyzed.
Inquests to assess the merits of the process and whether BHP Billiton is to blame for the tragedy are initially scheduled for April 2024. However, in May, the UK judge changed the date and the case will be analyzed only in October 2024. Partially complied with the mining company’s request. BHP Bilton wanted more time for Vale’s disclosure in the process and advocated holding the hearings only until 2025. Victims’ defense spoke against the adjournment.
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