Ivory Coast victims of toxic dumping say British company’s payoff not good enough

IVORY COAST — Africans in Ivory Coast who were victims of dumped toxic waste say a compensation deal offered by a British oil company doesn’t cut it. Trafigura, the company responsible, offered to pay some money to some of the victims following a UN report that linked the toxic dumping to the deaths of at least 15 people and the illness of tens of thousands.

Reports indicate that Trafigura illegally dumped truckload after truckload of toxic chemical waste in 15 locations off the coast of Abidjan, Ivory Coast in August 2006. Just weeks afterwards, tens of thousands of people began experiencing skin burns, bleeding, breathing problems and diarrhea. Some estimates put the number of victims at around 100,000.

Denis Titira Yao, the head of Ivory Coast’s National Federation of Victims of Toxic Waste has said that even though the deal is a starting point, it isn’t nearly enough. Yao said that the London-based oil company needs to pay reparations to all the people affected, secure cleaning-up of all the intoxicated sites, and create a health center to care for the victims.

Even while Trafigura is attempting to payoff some of the victims of its chemical attack to end the class action lawsuit of at least 30,000 victims, it is denying responsibility. Its excuses have ranged from ridiculous claims that the toxic waste it dumped off Africa’s coast couldn’t have made people sick to blaming the whole incident on a sub-contractor.

However, internal emails quoted recently on BBC.com indicate that Trafigura staff knew the waste was hazardous. Trafigura bought dirty oil by-product from an oil refinery in Mexico to make a lot of money by cleaning it and selling it at much higher prices. Trafigura used a process called “caustic washing” — pouring tons of caustic acid and a catalyst into the oil — to clean it. This cheap method produces such dangerous waste that it is banned in most of the world.

Trafigura initially attempted to unload the toxic waste in the Netherlands, but after being told that it would cost hundreds of thousands of Euros to treat safely, Trafigura instead took it to Africa and had it dumped by the Ivory Coast.

Even today, as more than a dozen Africans lie dead and tens of thousands suffer as a result of Trafigura’s toxic chemical poisoning of the people in Ivory Coast, Trafigura denies responsibility for any wrongdoing. However, reparations are indeed due.

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