LAW firm Phi Finney McDonald has won the right to pursue a shareholder class action against BHP related to the Samarco dam catastrophe, beating two other firms.

Federal Court judge Mark Moshinsky yesterday ruled the case could go ahead and stayed rival proceedings from Maurice Blackburn and Johnson Winter & Slattery.

The class action revolves around the 20 per cent fall in BHP’s share price that followed the 2015 disaster, when a dam wall collapsed at its Samarco iron ore joint venture in Brazil. Nineteen people died in the disaster, which also caused widespread environmental damage.

Justice Moshinsky preferred the funding model of Phi Finney McDonald, which details 18 per cent of any winnings would go to US-based backer G & E KTMC Funding.

This compared to a 15 per cent take from the self-funded Maurice Blackburn model and a complex sliding scale allowing up to 21.5 per cent to the funders of the JWS claim.

In November, 2015, the dam wall collapsed at the Samarco mine, which is jointly operated by BHP and Brazilian company Vale.

A torrent of mud wiped out a small village, Bento Rodrigues, polluted a major river and led to contaminated material spilling into the Atlantic Ocean.

On November 4, the day before the Fundao tailings dam failed, BHP’s Australian-listed shares were valued at $23.47.The had slipped to $16.83 by December 22 and, by January 21, had drifted to $14.20 — their lowest since the middle of 2005.