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Brazilians Bring Lawsuit Against Norsk Hydro over Alleged Pollution

2021-02-10 10:33:55

Some 40,000 Brazilians are taking a group action in the Netherlands against the Norwegian aluminum producer Norsk Hydro for alleged pollution by toxic waste in Northern Brazil.

The lawsuit was brought by a group of communities living in the lower Amazon region of Para state, mostly members of Cainquiama – the Amazon Association of Mixed Race, Indigenous, and Quilombolas – representing approximately 11,000 families.

They are seeking compensation for what they say "the improper disposal of toxic waste in the Murucupi River, as well as other effects of the presence of Norsk Hydro plants in the region," their law firm PGMBM said in a statement.

Hydro said on Tuesday it would respond as requested in the Dutch court where the lawsuit is being filed. The lawsuit was filed with the Rotterdam District Court on February 5, PGMBM said.

"The cases brought forward by Cainquiama are already being discussed in Brazilian courts and authorities," Hydro said in a statement to Reuters.

"The Cainquiama Association has filed five lawsuits in Brazil against various Hydro entities in Brazil since 2017."

Alunorte Refinery

Hydro has three plants in Para, including the Paragominas bauxite mine, the Alunorte refinery where bauxite is converted to alumina and Albras, where smelters convert alumina to aluminum.

"Victims have been exposed to toxic residues from aluminum processing, which can cause health problems such as increased incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's, skin diseases, stomach problems and diarrhea," said PGMBM.

The lawsuit also refers to a 2018 leak at Alunorte.

In early 2018, Hydro apologized for what it believed was a "totally unacceptable" spill of untreated water during torrential downpours at Alunorte, but denied that this had contaminated the local area.

On Tuesday, Hydro reiterated that "with regard to rainfall in 2018, there was no flooding and no evidence of contamination."

The unlicensed release of water prompted authorities and courts to demand that Hydro limit Alunorte's alumina production, which led to the partial closure of Albras and resulted in outages that lasted more than 15 months.

PGMBM said the plaintiffs had not filed the lawsuit in Brazil because they were "frustrated with a lack of progress in the Brazilian legal system."

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; edited by Louise Heavens, Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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