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 four years ago.
The class action case was filed in the Liverpool High Court by the UK-based PGMBM Law on behalf of over 200,000 individuals and organisations affected by the disaster.
Nineteen people died after toxic waters from the failed tailings dam surged through the village of Bento Rodrigues on 5 November 2015. The sludge destroyed hundreds of homes, devastated fisheries, contaminated forests and left hundreds of thousands of dwellers along the Doce River without drinking water.
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 environmental damage.
Tom Goodhead, Managing Partner of PGMBM, said many of the plaintiffs suffered catastrophic losses yet received almost no compensation after four years in contravention of Brazilian law which says full damages should be paid and the environment be completely restored after an accident.
 “The repeated warnings and recommendations of dam safety experts were acted upon too slowly, or sidestepped entirely. 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, [the state of] Espírito Santo and Brazil.”