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April 1, 2022

BHP set to face $6.6bn Brazil dam lawsuit

The claim seeks to hold the mining firm accountable for the disaster of the 2015 Fundão tailings dam.

Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP is set to face a revived $6.6bn lawsuit in London’s Court of Appeal next week, pertaining to the 2015 dam failure, reported Reuters.

Law firm PGMBM, on behalf of approximately 200,000 Brazilians, including indigenous people, businesses, churches, organisations, and municipalities, has filed the case against the mining giant.

Said to be one of the largest in English legal history, the claim seeks to hold the mining firm accountable for the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam that occurred in Brazil, in 2015.

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

PGMBM managing partner Tom Goodhead told the news agency that the team was “very confident”.

Goodhead noted that the approximately 120,000 claimants have reached out to walk-in centres in Brazil in recent months to update their details, and another potential 100,000 new clients sought to join.

BHP said that the case was ‘pointless and wasteful’, as it duplicates reparations and repairs work of the Renova Foundation, an entity created by the company and its Brazilian partners, and the proceedings in Brazil.

The company also said it has paid compensation and direct financial aid of nearly $1.89bn to more than 360,000 people, as well as expended nearly $6.3bn (R$30bn) for reparation and compensation programmes by year-end.

The latest move follows a permit by the UK Court of Appeal, in July 2021, to hear an application to reconsider the $6.95bn lawsuit against BHP over the dam disaster.

Prior to that, the Court of Appeal ruled that the case would be ‘irredeemably unmanageable’ if allowed to further proceed in the UK against BHP, as claimants were already making claims.

Scheduled to start on 4 April, the five-day hearing would help to establish whether the case can be heard in Britain.

Further trials are expected to determine the liability, and quantify damages without any settlement.

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