Vale faces fresh $3.8 billion lawsuit over 2015 dam disaster

Rupture of Samarco’s Fundao dam in 2015. (Photo by Rogério Alves | TV Senado Courtesy of Agência Senado| Flickr.)

Vale (NYSE: VALE) is facing a £3 billion lawsuit ($3.8bn) in the Netherlands from 77,000 claimants related to the 2015 collapse of the Fundão dam in Brazil, which adds to a long list of existing legal actions against the miner and its iron ore mine partner BHP (ASX: BHP) over the country’s worst environmental disaster. 

The Dutch suit is being pursued by law firms Pogust Goodhead and Lemstra Van der Korst against Vale and Samarco Iron Ore Europe, a marketing unit of the Samarco JV, which was responsible for operating the dam. 

Pogust Goodhead, which is also involved in the UK case against BHP, told the Financial Times on Tuesday the firm was acting on behalf of 77,000 individuals, nearly 1,000 businesses, and seven municipalities.

BHP is already dealing with a major class action lawsuit from around 700,000 claimants in the UK related to the same incident. The rupture of the Fundão mining waste facility on November 2015 resulted in 19 fatalities and pollution of waterways that reached the Atlantic Ocean, more than 650 km (400 miles) away. 

According to Vale, the Renova foundation, which the companies have been using to pay for some of the damages caused by the fatal dam collapse, had recieved 34.7 billion reais ($6.9 billion) in socioeconomic and environmental compensation as of December 2023.

A Brazilian court ruled in January that Samarco, Vale, and BHP had to pay $47.6 billion reals ($9.44bn) in compensation for the dam collapse. Both Vale and BHP have stated that they may appeal this decision.

That ruling did not apply to individual victims, Pogust Goodhead said in January.