BHP to settle US Samarco class action for $US50m

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BHP is to settle a US class action complaint concerning the purchasers of American depositary receipts of BHP in the wake of the Samarco dam disaster in Brazil.

The Samarco iron ore joint venture (JV) between Vale SA and BHP in Brazil was subject to a massive tailings dam failure in November 2015, wiping out communities and killing 19 people in what was one of the country’s biggest environmental disasters.

The class action, filed in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, concerns purchasers of these receipts from the period between September 25, 2014 and November 30, 2015. BHP has agreed to settle with the plaintiffs for $US50 million ($67.4 million) with no admission of liability.

The company is currently defending a similar class action closer to home – the Federal Court of Victoria was served with a class action notice by investors in July.

The Australian class action alleges that BHP had breached its obligations by failing to disclose its knowledge of the risk of the dam’s collapse and knowledge of the consequences of such a collapse. BHP responded at the time with a statement saying it would defend the class action.

Additionally, BHP settled an initial $7 billion in damages with the Brazilian Government in June in order to provide a two-year window for the settlement of a larger $55 billion civil claim.