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Redmud disaster Kolontar-Devecser, Hungary


The red mud disaster of Kolontar and Devecser is considered to be one of the greatest ecological catastrophies of Hungary. The western dam of a toxic red sludge reservoir located at Ajka ruptured on October 4, 2010. Red sludge or mud is a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, which took place at an alumina plant run by the Hungarian Alumina Production and Trading Company. As a result of the breach, the red mud contained there flooded the surrounding territory. The red mud reached surface water. The valleys of Torna and Marcal were polluted. There was a high risk of the pollution of Hungarys largest river, the Danube. It caused significant damage to the ecological and social structures of the region. 10 people died and the homes of 150 people were destroyed. One year later there had been some clean up, and MAL Hungarian Aluminum has been fined $647 million (472 million euros) for environmental damages. However, levels of toxicity are still dangerous.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Redmud disaster Kolontar-Devecser, Hungary
State or province:Veszprem County
Location of conflict:Region of Kolontar
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Aluminum/Bauxite

Project Details and Actors

Project details

,000 cubic meters of red mud was spilled

Project area:1000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project67,7500,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:local habitants
Company names or state enterprises:MAL-Magyar Aluminium Ltd. from Hungary
Relevant government actors:Minister of Internal Affairs, Director of the National Disaster Management Directorate, Under-secretary of the Ministry of National Affairs
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, Hungarian Interchurch Aid, Greenpeace

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Technological change and development.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Based on our results the management of the conflict cannot be considered a success of environmental justice. Although the financial remediation has been complete, local people still struggle with the psychological effects, and to their way of thinking they were not properly involved in the decision making process. There have been a lot of complaints of corruption during the remediation projects.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

/2001. Government Decree about activities with hazardous waste

/2001. Decree about catalog of waste

/2001. decree of waste disposal, as well as certain rules and conditions for the landfill

A flood of red sludge one year later

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Meta information

Contributor:Gyorgy Malovics
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:535