Brazil salt mining victims seek justice from Braskem in Dutch courts

February 15, 2024

Victims who were forced out of their homes by Braskem’s salt mining activities in Brazil could finally see justice through the Dutch courts.

Brazil’s sinking city

Since 2018, over 55,000 people have been evacuated because of salt mining in Maceió, Brazil. Residential neighbourhoods, near some of Brazil’s best beaches, have been left looking like a war zone.

Victims allege this environmental disaster was triggered by decades of mining by Braskem, Latin America’s largest petrochemical company and are suing the Brazilian company and its Dutch subsidiary entities in the Netherlands.

Seeking justice from Braskem in the Netherlands

Lawyers at Pogust Goodhead and Dutch firm Lemstra Van der Korst successfully brought the case to the Dutch courts because Braskem run their European subsidiaries from Rotterdam.  

Today, in the District Court in Rotterdam lawyers will argue the Braskem Group is liable for the damage caused in Maceió, including its Dutch subsidiaries, which benefit from Braskem’s profits and contribute to its mining activities in Brazil and around the world.

Additionally, it will be claimed that the Dutch and Brazilian entities should compensate for the damages suffered by the claimants.

Maceió residents have previously slammed Braskem’s offer of small sums for the damage to their properties as ‘shameful’ and ‘demoralising’.

Eight of the claimants stood outside the court before the hearing today. They held banners reading ‘Braskem: Take responsibility, not our homes’ and ‘Braskem sank our dreams’.

‘Our only hope’

One of the victims forced to leave her home is Maria Rosângela Ferreira da Silva. Maria travelled to the Netherlands to confront Braskem. She said: “After God, this is our only hope. Our hope is in the Netherlands, there is no justice in Brazil – we are literally sunk, we are devastated.”

CEO and Global Managing Partner at Pogust Goodhead, Tom Goodhead: “Nothing will bring back what our clients have lost but the court system in the Netherlands can provide them with justice. We are confident that it will.”

Martijn Van Dam of Dutch firm Lemstra Van der Korst: “Braskem does not even dispute it caused the harm. It is unbelievable that it leaves no stone unturned to raise all thinkable legal technical defences. We trust the court will ignore these tactics.”

Should the Dutch Court decide in favour of the claimants, ruling that Braskem is responsible for the disaster in Maceió, the victims would be the first to secure a decision holding Braskem liable.

Braskem’s liability for the severe material and moral damages caused by decades of irresponsible exploitation of salt mining will have finally been thoroughly and comprehensively examined.

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