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Victims of the Mariana dam disaster in Brazil seek compensation through UK courts | Environment

Victims of the Mariana dam disaster in Brazil seek compensation through UK courts | Environment

A village after a sea of red-brown mud inundated it. A care can be seen perched on a roof

In one of English legal history’s largest group claims, more that 200,000 victims of Brazils worst environment disaster are seeking compensation at a UK court.

Representatives of Krenak communities are among the claimants. They seek compensation for the destruction caused by November 2015’s Mariana dam disaster. The BHP mining company in Australia is the target of the 5bn-dollar lawsuit.

The Fundo tailings dam burst and released 40m cubic meters of toxic mining waste. It killed 19 people and affected the lives of hundreds more. The polluted, brown sludge drained down the River Doce, in the Brazilian state Minas Gerais. It flowed for 400 miles (670 km) into the Atlantic Ocean. The river destroyed the livelihoods of thousands and left them homeless.

This week’s court case is the culmination a three-and a half year-long legal battle in the UK. Lawyers from PGMBM, a London-based international law firm, represented hundreds of thousands of individuals, 530 businesses, 150 members indigenous communities, 25 municipalities, and six religious organizations.

PGMBM brought the lawsuit in 2018 and won the right to reopen it last July, after an earlier ruling that denied English courts the jurisdiction to hear it.

A village after a sea of red-brown mud inundated it. A care can be seen perched on a roof
Bento Rodrigues after Mariana dam burst. One local Krenak says that much of the wealth taken by the companies is not recoverable.Photograph by Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty

Yesterday, a representative of the Krenak Indian communities in London stated that: Every time I think back to the past, and every time I see the river again, I get angry.

These are difficult times for my people. I have made it my mission to help them get fair compensation. I am aware that much of the damage done by these companies to our people cannot be undone, no matter how hard they fight. It is even more frustrating that defendants suggested that my community was receiving full redress from Brazil.

Tom Goodhead is the managing partner of PGMBM. He stated that BHP is an international company that generates huge profits within the regions it operates. It is only right that the company should be held directly responsible at its headquarters. These days, corporations cannot do what they want in other countries and get away with it.

BHP Brazil was established in Brazil with Vale (brazilian iron-ore mining company) and Samarco (joint venture company responsible for the Fundo tailings dam. Renova FoundationTo mitigate the environmental effects of the collapse and provide compensation for individuals and small businesses for losses and damages. Renova had spent over 19.6 billion Brazilian reals (2.6bn), on environmental and economic rehabilitation projects and reparations. This included R$7.78bn in financial aid and compensation to 359,000 people.

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BHP did not respond to a request for comment at time of publication.

The hearing will continue until Friday, and three senior court of appel judges will hear it. It is being streamed online in London YouTube channel court of appeal.

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