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Tragedy in the Marianas: Case in UK reaches 700,000 claimants

A lawsuit filed in the United Kingdom against Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton has gained 500,000 new plaintiffs. Now 700,000 people and companies are represented in the 2015 Fundão Dam (MG) breach case. The environmental disaster released 39 million cubic meters of tailings in the Marianas (MG), killing 19 people, destroying entire communities, and injuring dozens more. From the municipalities in the basin of the Rio dos to its mouth, in Espirito Santo. BHP Controls is responsible for operating the dam along with mining company Vale, Samarco.

Among the new authors of this process are indigenous and quilombola communities, companies, 46 municipalities, states (Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia), religious institutions and public service organizations. The amount sought for compensation rose from BRL 32 billion to BRL 230 billion. The case has been pending in England and Wales since 2018, with the plaintiff represented by law firm Pogust Goodhead. The action was suspended in 2020 when an English judge understood that only a Brazilian judge should handle the case, even though BHP is headquartered in London.

In 2022, England’s Court of Appeal ruled that the country had case law. Since then, a new deadline has been opened until February 2023 to include teachers in the process. A hearing in the action is scheduled for April 2024.

“Financial compensation will not return our customers to a healthier, more prosperous time, or fully repair the damage to the environment. However, if BHP had paid compensation in a fair and reasonable time, they would have at least done the right thing and lived up to the corporate values ​​they uphold. Rather, as a result of repeated attempts to defeat justice, mining Worker and its investors are now facing more financial liability than they should have, and prolonging the suffering of victims,” ​​says Tom Goodhead, managing director of the law firm.

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Macon Grenac, a member of the Grenac tribal community and one of the authors of the process, says that people living along the banks of the Rio Dos are still suffering from the effects of the dam’s failure.

“BHP came to my house, took my food, polluted my water and tried to destroy our identity. We want justice,” he said.

The Renova Foundation, created to manage projects and actions to repair the damage caused by the 2015 disaster, reports that it has paid R$ 13.7 billion in compensation and emergency financial assistance to more than 410 thousand people as of January this year.

BHP Billiton said in a statement that it completely denies the claims for action. “The suit filed in the UK is unnecessary as it duplicates existing issues in relation to Renova Foundation’s ongoing work and/or ongoing litigation in Brazil. Proceedings in the United Kingdom are still at an early stage. Full details and figures regarding the new claimants and their claims have not yet been made available to the English court or BHP.

The company also says it has sought permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against the prosecution in the country. But still no reply. In the meantime, he says, he is working with Samarco and Vale on repair projects.