Trial over Spanish ecological disaster starts, 25 years on (France 24 – July 4, 2023)

Madrid (Spain) (AFP) – Twenty five years after one of Spain’s worst ecological disasters, a court case against the Swedish mining company involved opened Tuesday in the southern city of Seville.

The case, being brought by the regional government in Andalusia, holds mining company Boliden responsible for a 1998 toxic spill that contaminated a vast stretch of rivers and wetlands with heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium and mercury.

The Donana National Park wetlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are home to the endangered Iberian lynx and are a vital stopover point for millions of birds migrating between Europe and Africa. The catastrophe occurred when a wastewater reserve pool burst at Boliden’s Los Frailes lead and zinc mine in the city of Aznalcollar, spewing more than five million cubic metres (17.5 million cubic feet) of highly acid sludge into the river and groundwater.

The toxic spill on April 25, 1998, killed tens of tonnes of fish and polluted nearly 5,000 hectares of fragile wetland. The Andalusian government spent millions on the clean-up. The case got underway on Tuesday after years of legal wrangling, which ground to a halt in 2002 when the Supreme Court ruled that Boliden was not criminally responsible.

Boliden has always denied responsibility for the disaster and blamed a subsidiary of Spanish construction company Dragados that built the wastewater pool. “Our position is that we took a huge responsibility with regards to the clean-up of the accident and therefore the claim should be written off,” a Boliden spokesman told AFP.

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