BHP Billiton faces legal action from shareholders who say the mining giant misled them over safety measures at a dam in Brazil which broke, killing 19 people and causing Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster.
When the Fundão dam broke in 2015, waste from an iron ore mine operated by Samarco, a joint venture between BHP and its partner Vale, devastated the local area in Minas Gerais state.
A red wave of clay, sand and water polluted miles of river, killing aquatic life, leaving hundreds of people homeless, and flowing out to sea. Australian law firm Phi Finney McDonald now plans to sue the multinational, which is listed on stock markets in London, Sydney and Johannesburg, on behalf of investors.
It alleges that the company – one of the largest mining firms in the world with revenues of $38bn (£28bn) – knew that the dam was at imminent risk of breaking but did not tell markets, in breach of regulations.
BHP’s share price collapsed more than 20 per cent in the days after the disaster. The mining giant has said publicly that it was not responsible for the dam’s collapse, that it complied with Brazilian law and that safety has always been a key concern.