Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP could be hit with a £36bn ($43.32bn) compensation claim in the UK, pertaining to the 2015 Fundao iron ore tailings dam collapse, reported Reuters.

Following the disaster, approximately 200,000 Brazilians, including indigenous people, businesses, churches, organisations and municipalities, filed a lawsuit against BHP, seeking compensation.

The lawsuit was dismissed in 2020. However, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that the case could proceed in July 2022.

At that time, BHP said the group action duplicates the matters already covered by the work of the Renova Foundation, an entity created by the BHP and its Brazilian partners, and the proceedings in Brazil.

The mining firm later applied to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. The application is still awaiting.

Approximately 500,000 claimants have now joined the legal action in the London court, bringing the total number of claimants related to the incident to 700,000. This could increase the potential bill for BHP to $44bn, including interest, if the claimants are successful.

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UK-based law firm Pogust Goodhead is representing the claimants for the Fundao dam disaster case in the UK.

Pogust Goodhead CEO Tom Goodhead said: “By failing to enter a negotiated settlement of these proceedings in 2018 after they were brought, as well as failing to pay adequate compensation in Brazil, the number of claimants has more than tripled to over 700,000.”

A BHP spokesperson was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying: “BHP will continue to defend the UK group action and denies the claims in their entirety.

“The UK claim is at a preliminary stage with full details of claim yet to be provided and no damages quantified for most of the claims.”

In 2015, the collapse of the Fundao iron ore tailings dam in the Minas Gerais region resulted in the deaths of 19 people and flooded nearby towns.

The dam is owned by Samarco, which is a joint venture between BHP and Brazilian iron ore mining company Vale.