World’s largest miner BHP (ASX, NYSE: BHP) is facing a $5 billion lawsuit in England, which claims the company was “woefully negligent” in the run-up to the 2015 Samarco dam failure in Brazil, the country’s worst environmental disaster.
The suit, filed by law firm SPG Law, was served to BHP on behalf of 235,000 Brazilian individuals and organizations, including municipal governments, utility companies, indigenous tribes and the Catholic Church.
Claim will be largest group action to be heard in England.
The group action suit describes in detail a series of failures and errors of judgment over several years leading to the disaster, including how the company was aware of escalating safety concerns surrounding the dam’s integrity and how it failed to act upon repeated warnings from independent experts and dam safety advisers regarding recommended safety improvements.
“Driven by concern for declining revenues amidst the falling market price of iron ore, the company took risks, increased production and turned a blind eye to dangers that ultimately claimed lives and destroyed communities,” Tom Goodhead, Partner at SPG Law, said in an emailed statement.
He added the claim will be largest group action to be heard in England.
The collapse of the Fundao tailings dam in 2015, owned by the Samarco joint venture between BHP and Brazil’s iron ore giant Vale (NYSE:VALE), killed 19 and left a trail of destruction for hundreds of kilometres in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo States, reaching the Atlantic Ocean, 600 kilometres away.
Samarco, which was once the world’s second-largest iron-ore pellet operation, has been shuttered ever since.
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