Thursday, 19 September, 2019

BHP Billiton faces $5bn claim for failure of Brazilian dam in 2015

The Samarco mine today Camera Icon The Samarco mine today
Russell Knight | 10 May, 2019, 05:14

At 5 billion U.S. dollars (£3.8 billion), it is the largest claim in United Kingdom legal history.

BHP (ASX:BHP) today released a statement to the ASX noting the media reports out today concerning the group claim in the United Kingdom in relation to the Samarco dam failure.

BHP, an Anglo-Australian firm listed in London, rejects all of the charges.

Claimants allege BHP, the world's biggest mining company by market value, was aware of rising safety concerns, failed to act on repeated warnings from independent safety experts, increased industrial output of iron ore despite safety concerns and placed the pursuit of profit over human and environmental risk.

Tom Goodhead, partner at SPG, said: "The repeated warnings and recommendations of dam safety experts were acted upon too slowly, or sidestepped entirely".

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

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In a brief statement released by BHP today, the company confirmed the legal proceedings had been filed and that it "intends to defend the claim".

The £5billion claim alleges that BHP "knew of the risks" surrounding the deteriorating condition of the Fundao dam, which collected waste at the Samarco iron ore mine.

BHP has to reply within four weeks but because the case is so extensive it may ask for more time.

Mr Goodhead said: "BHP was woefully negligent in its duty of care and the damages sought are entirely commensurate with the devastation the company has wrought upon the people of Minas Gerais, [the state of] Espirito Santo and Brazil".

BHP, which has settled a USA investor class action and is battling Australian shareholder lawsuits, has rejected all charges.

The logo of the Brucutu mine owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA is seen in Sao Goncalo do Rio Abaixo, Brazil February 4, 2019.

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