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UK law firm files multi-billion pound lawsuit for Brazil dam tragedy

Fundao dam

Australian mining company BHP Billiton is facing a multi-billion pound lawsuit being handled by a UK-based law firm, over the Samarco dam disaster in Brazil in 2015 which killed 19 people.

The lawsuit is being handled by SPG Law under Brazilian law and has been filed in the High Court in Liverpool.

The claim is being brought for damages on behalf of 240,000 individuals who were victims of the disaster which also destroyed 1,469 hectares of riparian forest and caused catastrophic environmental damage to the Rio Doce river basin.

SPG Law is also representing 24 Brazilian municipal governments, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mariana and members of the Krenak indigenous community.

SPG Law US partner Glenn Phillips said: “BHP Billiton PLC are liable for the massive damage caused by the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster because Brazil’s laws provide both for strict liability for environmental torts and for parent companies to be liable for the acts and omissions of their subsidiaries”.

SPG Law partner Tom Goodhead, who has spent the last three months in Brazil working on the claim, added: “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.

“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.”

Two years ago, a report into the disaster, commissioned by BHP Billiton and Vale, concluded that the tailings dam failed when the supporting sand structure that was containing fines – the smallest waste particles after minerals are taken out of the mined material – changed from a solid structure to behaving as a liquid, known as liquefaction. 

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