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--BHP is facing the largest claim in U.K. legal history for negligence in connection with the collapse of the Fundao dam in Brazil
--The group action on behalf of 235,000 Brazilian individuals and organizations is suing the mining company for $5 billion
--BHP said it will defend itself in the proceedings, which are being brought in the city of Liverpool
By Oliver Griffin
Anglo-Australian miner BHP Group PLC (BHP.LN) is facing the largest claim in U.K. legal history for being "woefully negligent" in its duty to prevent the catastrophic collapse of the Fundao dam in Brazil, in 2015, which killed 19 people.
A group action lawsuit filed in Liverpool, England on Tuesday on behalf of 235,000 Brazilian individuals and organizations--including municipal governments, utility companies, indigenous tribes and the Catholic church--is represented by law firm SPG Law. The suit against BHP--the world's biggest mining company by market value--claims $5 billion in damages caused by the collapse of the dam.
Tom Goodhead, a partner at SPG Law 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, Espirito Santo and Brazil."
Neil Burrows, a spokesman for the mining company, said BHP intends to defend itself in the proceedings.
BHP--a UK-registered company--is one of the two parent companies of dam operator Samarco Mineracao SA. While the claim is being brought in England, it will be heard under Brazilian law, which Mr. Goodhead said provides for a number of ways to hold parent companies liable for the acts and omissions of their subsidiaries.
Mr. Goodhead said speed was a factor in bringing the case against BHP to England, explaining that lawsuits concerning environmental damages in Brazil can take considerably more time.
The suit alleges that BHP was aware of escalating safety concerns about the dam's integrity and were knowingly responsible for decision-making around its operation and maintenance.
Claimants also allege that BHP failed to heed and act on repeated warnings and consistently increased industrial output of iron ore, leading to water levels growing, despite safety concerns.
Shares at 1335 GMT were down 0.3% at 1,773 pence.
Write to Oliver Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org; @OliGGriffin
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 07, 2019 10:32 ET (14:32 GMT)
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