How can transnational litigation help to overcome corporate impunity?

The Brazilian State’s inability to respond effectively to victims of environmental crimes has led to several legal actions in European countries, where companies responsible for the harm are registered. This essay aims to contribute to the discussion on cross-border litigation as a strategy for counteracting the corporate takeover of environmental permitting and inspection procedures in Brazil, by examining the history and developments in the wake of the dam collapses in Minas Gerais that involved mining and engineering companies based in the United Kingdom and Germany.

On November 5, 2015, a dam at an iron ore mine belonging to Samarco S.A. – jointly owned by the Anglo-Australian company BHP and the Brazilian Vale S.A. – broke, resulting in the worst environmental tragedy on record in the mineral extraction sector, at least in terms of the amount of mining waste released (62 million cubic meters). The mud that was released buried two villages in the district of Mariana, in the state of Minas Gerais, and left the Rio Doce, one of the most important rivers in southeastern Brazil, choked with debris. The tragedy caused 19 deaths and, over the coming decades, thousands of people will have to live with the environmental and economic impact as well as drastic changes to their ways of life.

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