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May 7, 2021

UK appeals court to reassess lawsuit against BHP for Brazil dam collapse

The UK Court of Appeal has reportedly agreed to hear an application to reconsider the $6.95bn lawsuit against BHP over the Fundão tailings dam disaster that occurred in Brazil in 2015.

The oral hearing has been agreed upon by Judge Nicholas Underhill.

Reuters reported Underhill as saying in an order: “I am satisfied that, exceptionally, an oral hearing is appropriate in this case.”

The move reverses an earlier decision made by the Court of Appeal to reject a Brazilian claimant group permission to revive the lawsuit.

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

In November 2015, the tailings dam burst at Samarco’s Germano mining site resulted in 19 deaths and a flood of heavy water and mud into Bento Rodrigues.

The collapse of the dam polluted the Doce River, impacting marine life and contaminating drinking water with toxic sludge.

Samarco Mineracão is a joint venture (JV) of iron ore firms BHP Billiton and Vale, each holding 50% stakes.

BHP spokesman was cited by Reuters as saying: “Previous (court) rulings have supported our position that the civil claim proceedings were unnecessary as they duplicated matters already covered by the existing and ongoing work of the Renova Foundation and are, or have been, the subject of ongoing legal proceedings in Brazil.”

Last year, the UK’s High Court of Manchester blocked the lawsuit filed by SPG Law against BHP over the Brazil dam disaster.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 200,000 Brazilian individuals and organisations, who are seeking justice and appropriate compensation for the victims and environmental restoration. SPG Law is now PGMBM.

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