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BHP facing multibillion-dollar lawsuit

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Mining giant BHP Billiton is facing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over the Samarco dam catastrophe in Brazil.

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The class action has been filed in Liverpool in the UK by the firm SPG Law.

It counts more than 240,000 claimants, including several Brazilian municipalities, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mariana and members of the Krenak indigenous community.

SPG said it is filing the suit at the High Court in Liverpool because the FTSE 100-listed BHP, one of the parent companies of Samarco, is a UK-registered company.

The case is being brought for damages both on behalf of individuals, communities, foundations and indigenous peoples collectively, SPG said on Monday.

“Three years on from the tragedy, nearly a million Brazilian citizens affected by the disaster have either not been compensated at all or have received low financial settlements,” SPG Law partner Tom Goodhead said.

“In essence they have been ignored and forgotten. The process of compensation has so far been in the hands of the defendants. This is about putting the claimants in control.”

In 2015, the Samarco iron ore mine in the Minas Gerais state in south eastern Brazil saw a dam collapse, killing 19 people and displacing 700.

A torrent of mud unleashed by the burst also wiped out a small village, Bento Rodrigues, and contaminated the Atlantic Ocean.

The deadly stain of red mud, water and debris flowed downstream into the Doce River, where it devastated wildlife and compromised the drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of people.

The stain flowed through the neighbouring Espirito Santo state, before it reached the Atlantic.

BHP has already paid out millions to bankroll compensation and remediation programmes.

It is also facing legal action in Australia on behalf of shareholders.

– PA

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