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19 Sep 2011

Luliang Chemical Industry & Peace Technology lawsuit (re heavy metal pollution in China)


Date lawsuit was filed
19 Sep 2011
Location of Filing: China
Location of Incident: China
Type of Litigation: Domestic




In 2011, two environmental NGOs in China filed a lawsuit against Luliang Chemical Industry and its subsidiary in the Yunnan Province, China for environmental pollution allegedly caused by the discharge of their waste, which resulted in extraordinary high rates of cancer among local residents. Proceedings are ongoing. 


Factual background

On 19 September 2011, Friends of Nature and Chongqing Green Volunteer Union, two environmental NGOs in China, filed a lawsuit against Luliang Chemical Industry and its subsidiary, Peace Technology, in the Intermediate Court of Qujing in Yunnan Province for environmental pollution allegedly caused by the discharge of their chromium-contaminated waste, which resulted in extraordinary high ratio of cancer sufferers among local residents.  Experts on environmental law in China regard this case as a landmark and the first environmental public interest lawsuit filed by NGOs in China.

Legal argument

The plaintiffs maintain that the companies have joint liability for the contamination caused by the discharge of the waste.  The plaintiffs argue that the two defendants should eliminate the environmental hazard by discontinuing the illegal storage of chromium-contaminated waste, compensating for the environmental damage and establishing a special fund to pay for environmental remediation.

Luliang Chemical Industry stated that its goal was to solve the environmental problems in cooperation with the plaintiffs, but that, given the historical reasons for the local chromium pollution, it would not assume liability for the full cost of the damage. A chemical factory established in 1989 in Luliang had, according to Luliang Chemical Industry, stored 284,400 tons of chromium-contaminated waste prior to being acquired by Luliang Chemical Industry in 2003.

Criminal law proceedings

Luliang Chemical Industry was previously held responsible for causing pollution from waste discharge by the Qilin District Court of Qujing.  It was found to have illegally discharged over 5000 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in Qujing, and to have stored 288,400 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in an open storage facility near Nanpanjiang River.

On 15 May 2012 seven people, including employees and contractors of Luliang Chemical Industry, were found guilty by the Qilin District Court of Qujing for illegally discharging chromium-contaminated waste.

Public interest lawsuit proceedings

On 19 October 2011 the case was accepted by the court, and a local governmental agency, the Qujing Environmental Protection Bureau, who had been a third party, was added to the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

In 2012, the parties entered into mediation presided over by the court, and in December 2012 they reached an agreement.  According to the agreement, the defendants would remediate the already-polluted sites within a defined timeframe, treat their chromium-contaminated waste to reduce its toxicity before discharging it, and cease discharging it in the future.  

However, on 18 April 2013 the court was informed of the defendants’ refusal to sign the mediation agreement, and the trial process resumed.  The proceedings are on-going.

Cadmium pollution in Yunnan reopens debate over public interest litigation, Zhang Chun, China Dialogue, 15 Jul 2013
Talks Begin in Landmark NGO Environment Case,Cao Yin & Guo Anfei,China Daily,24 May 2012