Brazil group sues Norsk Hydro over alleged pollution

OSLO (Reuters) - Some 40,000 Brazilians are bringing a group-action lawsuit in the Netherlands against Norwegian aluminium producer Norsk Hydro over alleged toxic waste pollution in northern Brazil.

FILE PHOTO: Concrete pipes connecting the bauxite residue deposit to its water treatment station are pictured at the alumina refinery Alunorte, owned by Norwegian company Norsk Hydro ASA, in Barcarena, Para state, Brazil March 5, 2018. Picture taken March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

The lawsuit has been 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 lawsuit was filed before the District Court of Rotterdam on Feb. 5, PGMBM said.

“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 aluminium.

“Victims have been exposed to toxic residues from the processing of aluminium, which can cause health problems such as increased incidences of cancer, Alzheimer’s, skin diseases, stomach problems and diarrhoea,” PGMBM said.

The lawsuit also refers to a 2018 spill at Alunorte.

In early 2018, Hydro apologised for what it said was a “completely unacceptable” spill of untreated water during severe rains at Alunorte but denied that this had contaminated 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, Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis