Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 17:56 UK

Trafigura 'to pay out over waste'

Liz MacKean
BBC Newsnight reporter

Contaminated earth collected into giant bags
Much of the chemical waste still remains in Abidjan

BBC Newsnight has learnt that oil-trading company Trafigura has offered to pay damages in a case relating to toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast.

The case was brought on behalf of 30,000 Africans who say they were harmed by hazardous waste.

The waste from a ship called Probo Koala was illegally dumped in Abidjan.

The news comes as a UN report has said there is "strong prima facie evidence" that death and injuries reported in Ivory Coast are related to the dump.

The waste had been generated by the oil-trading multi-national, Trafigura, which has bases in London, Amsterdam and Geneva.


The company has persistently denied that the waste was dangerous to human health.

But an investigation by Newsnight earlier this summer revealed that it contained a cocktail of potentially lethal compounds that can cause sickness, breathing difficulties and skin damage.

Newsnight's report from May 2009 on dirty tricks and toxic waste in Ivory Coast

It also contained the deadly gas hydrogen sulphide.

An analysis of the waste was carried out by the Dutch authorities after Trafigura unsuccessfully tried to offload the waste there, claiming it was simply tank washings - the standard oil-water mixture produced by routine tank cleaning.

The company is also being prosecuted in the Dutch courts.

The class action, on behalf of more than thirty thousand Ivorians, had been due to be heard in London next month.

Trafigura has always denied and continues to deny any liability for events that occurred in Ivory Coast, but in 2007 they paid £100m to the Ivorian government to "compensate the victims" amongst other things.

The government administered fund paid compensation to the families of 16 people whose deaths they believed were caused by the waste.

On Wednesday Trafigura admitted a "global settlement is being considered" for the victims who suffered lesser injuries. In the meantime it says there will be no further comment.

A statement from the Ivorians' lawyers, Leigh Day and Company, confirms an offer has been made and says: "The claimants are very pleased and are keen to see the issue resolved."

Watch Newsnight's report, revealing new information about the Trafigura story, on Wednesday 16 September 2009 at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

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23 Oct 08 |  Africa
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Ivory Coast's forgotten acrid waste
19 Aug 08 |  Africa
EU tightens toxic shipment rules
12 Jul 07 |  Europe
Poisoned Ivorians reject payout
23 Jun 07 |  Africa
Toxic waste deal won't halt case
15 Feb 07 |  Africa
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14 Nov 06 |  Africa


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