Chileans sue Swedish mining firm for $13.9 million

A group of 707 Chileans from the northern city of Arica sued Swedish mining company Boliden (STO:BOL) (TSX:BLS) on Monday, demanding $13.9 million (91 million kronor) in compensation for health problems allegedly caused by the dumping of toxic waste near their homes in the eighties.

News agency EFE reports (in Spanish) that Boliden paid $1.5 million (10 million kronor) in the mid-eighties for local company Promel to take care of 20,000 tonnes of toxic waste that was ruled too dangerous to be kept on site in Skellefteå, far northern Sweden.

Locals claim the waste includes high levels of arsenic, lead and quicksilver, and that it has caused them health problems such as cancer, breathing difficulties, rashes, aching bones and miscarriages.

In 2007 Chile’s Supreme Court ruled the country’s government had to pay about $5.4 million to the 356 inhabitants of Cerro Chuño, a community in the Arica region, in compensation for related health issues caused by Boliden’s toxic waste.

But Boliden has so far rejected any responsibility in the matter. In a statement Monday it said it regrets what happened in Arica, but argues the responsibility lies with Chilean authorities that allowed houses to be built near the dump site.

It also blamed local company Promel, the one Boliden paid to take care of the waste.

Boliden focuses on copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver, employing around 4,500 employees.

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