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Boliden lawsuit (re Chile)

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

In 2013, over 700 Chileans filed a claim against Boliden Mineral in Swedish court. Plaintiffs alleged they have suffered health problems as a result of Boliden's dumping smelter sludge near their town. In 2018, the Swedish court ruled in favour of Boliden.

 

In September 2013, Arica Victims KB, a company representing 707 Chileans, filed a claim against Boliden Mineral, a Swedish mining company, at the county court of Skellefteå, Sweden. The claim alleges that Chileans from Arica have suffered health problems as a result of the dumping of Boliden’s smelter sludge near the town in the 1980s. The plaintiffs have requested SEK 90 million in damages, plus interest.

Boliden shipped approximately 20,000 tonnes of smelter sludge to the Polygono area in Arica between 1984 and 1985. The waste derived from Boliden’s Rönnskär arsenic plant in Sweden and was sold to a Chilean company, Promel, for processing. However, the waste was reportedly left unprocessed and unprotected at the site until 1998. Starting in 1989, housing developments were built nearby, but Chilean authorities concluded in 2009 that the area should be evacuated as it remained contaminated.

The plaintiffs allege that, since the 1990s, the community has suffered from serious diseases, including cancer, miscarriages, skin conditions and breathing problems. Medical tests showed excessive levels of arsenic in the residents’ blood. The plaintiffs allege that Boliden acted negligently. The plaintiffs also state that there is evidence that Boliden knew that the sludge would pose a significant health threat. Boliden had submitted a patent application, prior to the waste dumping, for a new technology to remove arsenic from sludge. In that application, Boliden stated that their technology was the only technology that could make the waste safe.

Boliden filed its defence on 20 January 2014 and denied the claim in its entirety. It argued that it did not act negligently and that it could not have foreseen the events that led to the health problems. It further suggested that it is “improbable” that it was Boliden’s waste that caused the arsenic levels recorded in residents’ blood. Boliden argues that the Chilean health authority and Promel are responsible for the health issues suffered. In support of its argument, it cites a 2007 case, in which the Chilean Supreme Court held that the state had to compensate 365 residents from the Arica area, as a result of health problems caused by toxic waste. In the 2007 Chilean case, Promel was unable to pay any compensation as it had ceased to exist by the time of the judgement. The state was found liable for having not implemented protective measures in relation to the toxic material that Promel had been storing.

In October 2017, the District Court in Skellefteå, Sweden began hearing oral arguments.  On 8 March 2018, the Court ruled in favour of Boliden, dismissing the plaintiffs' compensation claim.  Plaintiffs are likely to appeal the decision.

 

- "Swedish court rules in favor of Boliden in Chile waste export case", Reuters, 8 Mar 2018
- "Swedish mining company Boliden in court over toxic waste in Chile", 17 Oct 2017
- [ES] "Residuos Mineros de Suecia Envenenan a Niños Chilenos", Centro Legal de Defensores del Medio Ambiente, 26 de septiembre de 2013
- "Chilean smelting victims sue Sweden’s Boliden", Dorothy Kosich, 17 Sep 2013
- "Chileans sue Swedish mining firm over toxic waste", Malin Rising, Associated Press, 16 Sep 2013
- [Audio] "Swedish mining Company sued for poisoning in Chile", Radio Sweden, 16 Sep 2013

Boliden:
- "Summary of Boliden’s statement of defence in the case of Arica Victims KB (plaintiff) vs. Boliden Mineral AB (defendent)", 20 Jan 2014
- "Boliden Interim Report, January-September 2013", 22 Oct 2013
- "Deliveries of smelting residues to Chile during the mid 1980’s", Sep 2013
- "AricaVictims KB’s write of summons against Boliden", 16 Sep 2013

Environmental Defender Law Center:
- "Toxic Swedish mining waste is shipped to Chile", 16 Sep 2013

[PDF] Complaint filed by Arica Victims, 12 Sep 2013 [available in Swedish only]

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