Some 40,000 Brazilians are bringing a group-action lawsuit against Norwegian aluminum producer Norsk Hydro for what they say is toxic waste pollution the company is causing in northern Brazil.
The lawsuit is brought by a group of communities who live in the lower Amazon region in the state of Para, mainly members of Cainquiama – the Amazon Association of Mixed Race, Indigenous and Quilombolas – representing some 11,000 families.
They are seeking compensation for what they say is “the incorrect disposal of toxic waste in the Murucupi River, as well as other effects from the presence of Norsk Hydro installations in the region,” their law firm PGMBM said in a statement.
Hydro said on Tuesday it would respond as requested before the Dutch court where the lawsuit is being filed.
“The matters brought forward by Cainquiama are already being discussed before Brazilian courts and Brazilian authorities,” Hydro said in a statement to Reuters.
“The Cainquiama association has since 2017 filed five lawsuits in Brazil against different Hydro entities in Brazil.”
Hydro has three installations in Para including the Paragominas bauxite mine, its Alunorte refinery where bauxite is turned into alumina and Albras, where smelters turn alumina into aluminum.
“Victims have been exposed to toxic residues from the processing of aluminum, which can cause health problems such as increased incidences of cancer, Alzheimer’s, skin diseases, stomach problems and diarrhea,” PGMBM said.
The lawsuit also refers to a 2018 spill that occurred at Alunorte.
In early 2018, Hydro apologized for what it said was a “completely unacceptable” spill of untreated water during severe rains at Alunorte but denied that this had resulted in a contamination of the local environment.
On Tuesday, Hydro reiterated that “in respect of the 2018 rainfall event, there was no overflow and no evidence of contamination.”
The unlicensed release of water prompted authorities and courts to demand that Hydro curtail alumina output from Alunorte, triggering the partial shutdown of Albras and resulting in outages that lasted more than 15 months.
PGMBM said the claimants were not filing the lawsuit in Brazil because they were “frustrated at a lack of progress in the Brazilian legal system.” (Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)