Thursday, October 15, 2009

Trafigura Cote d'Ivoire toxic onslaught : the story in short

Acknowledgements to Candace Feit for The New York Times
Six-month-old Salam Oudrawogol of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has been covered with sores since he was exposed to toxic waste in August.

The Minton Report was commissioned by Trafigura to assess the damage caused by their waste discharge in Abidjan on August 19th 2006, and Trafigura's anxiety to suppress the report was the cause of the recent Carter-Fuckup, two days ago.

I have spent half the morning trying to convert my .pdf copy of the Minton Report to go on this blog, without success. (Why can Blogspot not handle .pdf?) However, the report is now up in several places - it can be downloaded on Wikileaks, and is now actually up on Wikileaks, and also here, and so many copies are now saved on people's hard drives that Trafigura have no chance of suppressing it.

Life is short, and the Internet has a tendency to deliver nformation bit by bit, so here is a potted time-line history of this whole sorry affair:


2006 April-June
Probo Koala takes on a cargo of coker naphtha in USA.
In order to reduce the sulphur content of these cargoes, on-board washing took place. To each cargo, caustic soda (NaOH, 33% aqueous) and 8kg ARI-100 EXL catalyE (Cobalt phthalocyanine sulphonate) was added. The mixture was circulated for 24hrs and allowed to settle before the caustic solution was drained to the slops tanks.
The combined slops from these washing operations were reported as: 150m3 NaOH, 37Gm3 treated naphtha and free water, and 24kg ARI-100 EXL catalyst.

2006 July
Probo Koala attempts to offload the cargo in Amsterdam, but is refused, as Trafigura is unwilling to pay the fees for detoxification. The Dutch authorities ought not to have let the Probo koala leave port with the cargo.

2006 August 19
Probo Koala transfers 500 tonnes of oil waste containing a mixture of hydrogen sulphide to a newly formed company in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, who then dump it to 12 landfill sites around the town over the next 3 weeks.

People in the vicinity experience headaches, burns to the skin, respiratory tract irritation. 100,000 medical consultations related to this occur. 12-17 connected deaths are reported. There were protests and demonstrations.

2006 September 14
The Minton report, commissioned by Trafigura, concludes
9.3 The compounds ... are capable of causing severe human health effects through inhalation and ingestion. These include headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea, eye irritation, skin ulceration, unconsciousness and death. There would also be a strong and unpleasant odour over a large area. All of these effects were as reported in this incident.

2006 September 18
Two Trafigura executive arrested in Cote d'Ivoire. Beaten up in prison. Released after Trafigura pays cleanup money.

2006 November
Trafigura launches libel action against Martyn Day, solicitor, for saying "We hold Trafigura fully to account for all the deaths and injuries that have resulted from the dumping of their waste".

2007 January
Trafigura pay $198 million to Ivorian government to pay for environmental cleanup, but deny responsibility.
Resignations from the Ivorian Government follow this deal, and the Government later falls.

Class action lawsuit against Trafigura launched in London on behalf of 30,000 Ivorain victims.

2009 May
Trafigura launches libel action against BBC Newsnight for alleging that the company had tried to cover up its role in these events.

2009 September
Compensation package agreed, the company to pay about £1000 to each of 31,000 people affected by the toxins, while still denying legal responsibility.

2009 October 13
Attempts by Trafigura to use UK's oppressive libel laws to cover up its record are defeated by Internet activists.

PS: Notes, Links and Updates

Here is an excellent report from the Independent. Greenpeace Netherlands is aiming to get them for corporate manslaughter.

Here is a link to a .pdf of the internal Trafigura emails as they mull the deal, from buying the coker naphtha in the first place to arriving at Abidjan to wash their hands of the stuff. Useful insight into how they work. Here is one of the more interesting excerpts:
Naeem Ahmed

Sent: 24 March 2006 12:30

To: David Fbster

Cc: ‘Tom Burke’

Subject: RE: La Skhirra

I would prefer to leave this out

Due to the manufacturing process of the unleaded gasoline blendstock, a proportion of

Di-enes are present. These chemica]s are known for causing stability problems in oil

products and are the likely cause of the noxious odours being produced in the sump

(Dave duly complies with the request)
Interesting to note that one of them is called "Tom Burke". Could that be because he has the vestiges of a conscience?

1 comment:

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