A Spanish court on Friday exempted a Swedish mining firm from paying 89 million euros ($98 million) in compensation for the cleaning of a toxic sludge spill that occurred in 1998 at a heavy metals mine in southern Spain.
The court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the regional government of Andalusia, which demanded that the firm Boliden pay the sum for the environmental cleaning operations following the spill at a wastewater reservoir in the Aznalcóllar mine.
The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Boliden was legally obliged to pay for the restoration and cleaning work and exonerated it from any environmental responsibility.
The verdict, handed down by a court in the southern city of Seville, can be appealed before Spain’s Supreme Court.
In the trial earlier this month, the Swedish firm said it spent the equivalent of some 600,000 euros back in 1998 in the cleaning.
In 1999, Boliden’s Spanish branch was sentenced to pay the equivalent of 43 million euros by the Spanish Supreme Court. The company avoided the payment by pleading insolvency.
The Andalusian government took the action against Boliden in April 2022, after six years of unsuccessful negotiations to settle the matter.
On bursting its banks, the reservoir poured an estimated 1.3 billion gallons of acidic liquid into the Guadiamar River in Seville province.
Makeshift dikes kept the liquid and mud from flowing into the nearby Doñana National Park, but a vast area near the mine was inundated with toxic sludge containing traces of zinc, iron and other heavy metals. Thousands of fish and birds were killed.
The mine was closed in 2001 but a Mexican group has recently applied to reopen it.
By volume, the 1998 spill is the second worst toxic spill in Spain after the Prestige oil tanker wreckage off the northwestern coast of Galicia in 2002.
Source: Wral News