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LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) is ready to pay up to 30 million pounds ($51 million) in compensation for two oil spills in Nigeria in 2008 after a London court rejected a larger claim, sources involved in the case said on Friday.
Around 11,000 residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta represented by law firm Leigh Day appealed in 2011 to a London court for more than 300 million pounds in compensation for the spilling of 500,000 barrels of oil.
The London High Court on Friday rejected the claimants' attempts to expand the scope of the compensation, ruling that the pipeline operator could not be held responsible for damage caused by oil theft.
Shell's offer from September 2013 to settle the case for 30 million pounds remained on the table, sources involved in the case said.
A trial is planned to start in May 2015, but Shell urged the claimants to reach a settlement beforehand.
"From the outset, we've accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo," Mutiu Sunmonu, Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC), said in a statement.
"We hope the community will now direct their UK legal representatives to stop wasting even more time pursuing enormously exaggerated claims and consider sensible and fair compensation offers," Sunmonu said.
Massive oil theft, sabotage of infrastructure and leaks from ageing pipelines are cutting into the profits of oil majors operating in Nigeria, as well as damaging the public finances of the African economy.
(The story removes reference to 2011 in headline and reference to court case being in Nigeria in paragraph 5.)
Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Mark Potter and Keiron Henderson