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One of the biggest companies in the world will face a lawsuit for their involvement in the collapse of a Brazilian dam which released toxic waste down 400 miles of waterways.
In what is the largest group claim in English legal history, 200,000 claimants are seeking at least £5bn in compensation from mining company BHP, after the Fundão Dam in Mariana collapsed in 2015, killing 19 people and making thousands more homeless.
The court of appeal overturned previous judgements and released a 107-page judgment on Friday that BHP, would have to account for its role in the disaster after an earlier ruling that said English courts would not hear the case. The judgment also said compensation being paid in Brazil did not seem adequate.
It stated: “The vast majority of claimants who have recovered damages have only received very modest sums in respect of moral damages for interruption to their water supply … The claimants should be permitted now to proceed with the claims in the action.”
The lawsuit will establish whether multinational companies can be held liable in their own countries for the conduct of overseas subsidiaries,
Tom Goodhead, global managing partner of PGMBM, who are representing the claimants, told the Guardian:: “This is a huge step forward in not only securing justice for our clients but also sending a wider message to large multinational businesses that they cannot run major operations in countries around the world – and then hide behind their subsidiaries when things go wrong.”
In Brazil, BHP, iron-ore mining company Vale, and Samarco, the joint venture company responsible for managing the dam, established the Renova Foundation, which aims to provide compensation for individuals and some small businesses for loss and damages, as well as mitigating the environmental impacts of the disaster. According to a BHP spokesperson, by the end of this year about $5.6bn (£4.7bn) will have been spent in Brazil on fixing the damage, including compensation programmes.
BHP had argued that the case duplicates legal proceedings in Brazil and shouldn’t be allowed to go ahead.
A BHP spokesperson told the publication: “We will review the judgment and consider our next steps, which may include an application for permission to appeal to the supreme court. We will continue to defend the action, which we believe remains unnecessary as it duplicates matters already covered by the existing and ongoing work of the Renova Foundation under the supervision of the Brazilian courts and legal proceedings in Brazil.”
indy100 has contacted BHP to comment further on this story.
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