20 March 2024
by Sarah Morgan

Fresh action over Mariana dam disaster

Vale is facing a new lawsuit in the Netherlands for its role in the Mariana Dam collapse in November 2015. 

Mariana at the time of the disaster © Author/Ibama

The disaster destroyed towns and villages across two Brazilian states.

The £3bln action has been undertaken on behalf of claimants, including seven Brazilian municipalities (from the states of Bahia, Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais), nearly 1,000 businesses and associations, and over 77,000 individuals. 

The Mariana dam was operated by Samarco, which is a joint venture between mining giants Vale of Brazil and the Anglo-Australian BHP. 

International law firm Pogust Goodhead already represents close to 700,000 victims of the Mariana disaster in a separate claim against BHP in the English courts. 

The case was launched in the Netherlands against Vale SA and Samarco Iron Ore Europe BV, Samarco’s Dutch subsidiary, after lawyers attached the shares that Vale holds in Vale Holdings BV, its Dutch subsidiary.  

The claim by the individuals and businesses affected by the collapse of the dam is brought by the Stichting Ações do Rio Doce, a not-for-profit foundation in the Netherlands. 

The new claim is being made by victims of the disaster who are not included in the English claim, as further claimants cannot be added to the English case. Stichting Ações do Rio Doce has instructed Pogust Goodhead as legal advisors, together with Lemstra Van der Korst, a leading litigation firm in the Netherlands.  

According to Pogust Goodhead, this action is to ensure that the largest possible number of people who have had no form of compensation since the disaster have their claim addressed.

CEO and Global Managing Partner of Pogust Goodhead, Tom Goodhead, says, ‘The claims being brought in the Netherlands against Vale and Samarco Iron Ore Europe BV for their role in the disaster show that delaying justice and making low value offers in Brazil will not stop the victims from demanding justice. We are glad to be instructed to hold Vale and Samarco’s subsidiary to account for their role in the disaster.’ 

‘The time has come for multinational conglomerates to be held accountable for their actions wherever they operate or make their profits.’ 

These new claims come after settlement negotiations in Brazil broke down in December 2023 between Mariana dam owners, Samarco, Vale and BHP, and the Federal Government.

This breakdown was followed by an order from a Brazilian federal court for Vale and BHP to pay US$9.7bln (47.69bln reais) in damages for the tailings dam disaster.

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