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BHP Billiton facing £5bn lawsuit from Brazilian victims of dam disaster

Author: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, Published on: 6 November 2018

The worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history has triggered one of the biggest legal claims ever filed in a British court.  The Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton is being sued for about £5bn by Brazilian victims of the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana three years ago.  The class action case was filed in the Liverpool high court...on behalf of 240,000 individuals, 24 municipal governments, 11,000 businesses, a Catholic archdiocese and about 200 members of the Krenak indigenous community...

It emerged that the company had accurately predicted the risks in a worst-case assessment made six months earlier.  Prosecutors charged senior executives of the dam operator Samarco Mineração with homicide and accused its parent companies – Vale and BHP Billiton – of environment damage.  A civil case has been filed in Brazilian courts, but the plaintiffs believe they have more chance to get fair and speedy compensation in Britain...

If jurisdiction in the UK is accepted, the lawsuit is likely to raise the international profile of the case.  The first hearing would be next summer and the case could last two to five years.  Representatives from the affected communities will be called to testify in Liverpool along with expert witnesses...

BHP Billiton has yet to respond to a request for a comment, but in previous statements to the Guardian, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton said they rejected the charges...

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