Mining major BHP is reportedly staring at a £36bn ($44bn) lawsuit over the fatal dam accident in Brazil in 2015 as the number of claimants increased by more than three times to 700,000.

UK-based law firm Pogust Goodhead is representing the claimants in the lawsuit in the UK.

Initially, nearly 200,000 Brazilians sued BHP over the collapse of the Samarco dam, seeking compensation for alleged damage to their homes and livelihoods.

The lawsuit was dismissed in 2020 before the Court of Appeal ruled in July 2022 that it could proceed, reported Reuters.

BHP has sought the Supreme Court for reversing the decision and an application for the same is pending.

Pogust Goodhead CEO Tom Goodhead, has been quoted by the publication, as saying: “By failing to enter into a negotiated settlement of these proceedings in 2018 after they were brought, as well as failing to pay adequate compensation in Brazil, the number of claimants has more than tripled to over 700,000.”

The lawsuit relates to the 5 November 2015 accident, where a tailing dam constructed in the Brazilian village of Bento Rodrigues collapsed following a massive fracture, resulting in flooding of nearby towns.

The dam was built for storing iron ore waste coming from the operations of the Samarco mine operated by Samarco Mineração, a joint venture of BHP and Brazil-based metals and mining company Vale.

There were at least 17 casualties while more than a dozen were injured due to the Samarco dam disaster. It was reported that over 40 million cubic meters of iron waste entered into the Doce River, owing to the dam collapse.