BHP vows to fight Australia Samarco mine disaster class action

Sydney (AFP) –


BHP Monday vowed to fight an Australian class action alleging the mining giant breached its disclosure obligations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct over the deadly Samarco dam failure in Brazil.

Nineteen people were killed and a tsunami of toxic waste was unleashed when an iron ore tailings dam burst at the mine in the Minas Gerais region in 2015 in one of the country's worst environmental disasters.

BHP and Vale, co-owners of Samarco, last month reached an agreement with Brazilian public authorities to settle a 20 billion real (US$5.3 billion) civil suit over the tragedy.

The companies also established a framework to progress a second 155 billion real claim brought by Brazilian federal prosecutors in the next two years.

The disaster saw BHP's shares plunge and some 3,000 investors have now signed up to participate in a class action, brought by shareholder Vince Impiombato, the law firm representing him Phi Finney McDonald told AFP.

"BHP intends to defend the claim," the Anglo-Australian miner said in a brief statement about the class action, which was filed in the Federal Court of Australia in Victoria state in late May.

BHP shares were trading 1.03 percent lower to Aus$32.57 in Sydney Monday.

The class action's statement of claim alleges there had been problems with the dam in the years before 2015, and there was "significant risk of failure".

It also alleged BHP was or ought to have been aware of the risks, and that investors should have been informed.

BHP said last week in its annual operational review that the company would record a US$650 million charge for the year to June 30 over the dam collapse.