Temporary injunction granted to halt alleged intimidation of quilombola indigenous communities impacted by iron ore mine pollution in Bahia, Brazil
The communities claim employees of Brazil Iron Mineração Limitada (BIML) have tried to intimidate them into withdrawing legal claims against BIL and BITL.
The High Court has granted an temporary injunction in favour of 80 residents from two quilombola indigenous communities in Brazil to halt alleged intimidation and harassment by the wholly-owned Brazilian subsidiary of UK registered mining companies Brazil Iron Limited (BIL) and Brazil Iron Trading Limited (BITL).
The Mocó and Bocaina communities live between 150m and 2Km from the Fazenda Mocó mine in Bahia state, which is operated by BIML. A letter of claim sent to BIL and BITL on 4 September 2023 by law firm Leigh Day alleges that the two communities have suffered years of iron ore dust pollution from the mine, and that noise from machinery and blasting has disturbed their sleep and caused structural damage to their homes, and that some of them have suffered physical and psychological injuries. It is also alleged that by diverting a stream, the mine has deprived members of the community of water vital for irrigation of their crops.
Historically, quilombola communities are amongst the poorest in Brazil, and many of those making the claim against BIL are subsistence farmers or rely on social welfare programs. The vulnerability of these communities attracts special protection under Brazilian law in relation to the use of their land, such as the right to be consulted before works or activities that impact their land are licensed.
BIML has conducted mining operations at the site since December 2011. During that time it has repeatedly breached the terms of the environmental authorisations under which it was permitted to conduct experimental mining, leading the State environmental regulator INEMA to suspend mining activity in April 2022.
In the weeks after the legal letter was sent, Leigh Day’s clients say they were subjected to intimidation and harassment by two employees of BIML who tried to coerce the claimants to abandon their legal action.
Proceedings were issued on 29 September 2023 and the injunction application was heard in the High Court on 19 October 2023 before Mr Justice Lavender.
The Defendant disputes the allegations of harassment and a final determination of whether the injunction should stand will be made at a further hearing which is likely to be mid 2024. At that hearing the Defendant has indicated that it will challenge the jurisdiction of the English court to deal with the case.
The claimants are represented by Richard Meeran, head of the international department and Jonny Buckley, senior associate at Leigh Day.
Richard Meeran said: “Not only have these indigenous communities been subjected to consistent and ongoing pollution, they have stated that they have been pressurised into withdrawing their claims in the English court. The purpose of the injunction sought was to prevent this unacceptable attempt to obstruct our clients’ right to access to justice.”