London judge agrees to restart Brazil’s US$7 billion dam lawsuit against BHP Billiton Reuters

© Reuters. File photo: The remains of the municipal school in Bento Rodríguez, Brazil, taken on November 10, 2015 in Mariana, Brazil, covered with mud after the dams owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd. burst. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

Kirsten Ridley

LONDON (Reuters)-The London Court of Appeals on Tuesday agreed to renew a major lawsuit against the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, restoring a US$7 billion claim for the dam rupture that triggered the worst environmental disaster in Brazil in 2015.

A group of 200,000 Brazilian claimants have been working hard to resume their £5 billion (US$6.9 billion) British lawsuit against BHP Billiton since the lower court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of abuse of procedure in November last year. The judge of the Court of Appeal upheld the decision in March.

The three appellate court judges stated in their ruling on Tuesday: “Although we fully understand the considerations that led the judge to conclude that the claim should be set aside, we still believe that the appeal has real prospects for success.”

The Fundao Dam, owned by the Samarco joint venture between BHP Billiton and Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale’s Samarco, collapsed, killing 19 people and destroying villages. More than 40 million cubic meters of mining waste rushed into the Doce River and reached the Atlantic Ocean over 650 miles away. Kilometers (400 miles).

Hundreds of thousands of people suffered losses.

PGMBM Law Firm represented Brazilian individuals, businesses, churches, organizations, municipalities, and indigenous peoples in filing the group’s claim-one of the largest claims in the history of British law.

Tom Goodhead, managing partner of PGMBM, said this is a “commemorative decision” and his client believes this is the first time the judge has recognized the importance of the case.

By market value, BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, has marked the case as meaningless and wasteful, claiming that it repeated the proceedings in Brazil and the work of the Renova Foundation, which was created by the company and its Brazilian partners , Responsible for managing compensation and repairs.

“BHP Billiton’s position remains that the litigation does not belong to the UK,” it said in a statement. “The issues raised by the claimant are already covered by the work of the Renova Foundation, the existing decisions of the Brazilian courts, or are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings in Brazil.”

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