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Toxic waste dumping in Abidjan, Ivory Coast


On August 20, 2006, toxic waste was illegally exported from Europe by multinational trading company Trafigura and left in Akoudo, a dump site in the middle of a poor residential area of Abidjan, and in 18 other sites in the city. Tens of thousands of people suffered severe health effects and 15 to 17 people died. The waste was produced from unrefined gasoline by a process called caustic washing, a process banned by most countries. Ivorians staged protests and demonstrations in the city following the dumping.

In Ivory Coast, the company paid the Ivorian government USD 195 million in settlement and became immune from prosecution.

In 2010/11 a Dutch court found Trafigura guilty of the illegal export of waste from the Netherlands to Africa and for concealing the harmful nature of the waste for life and health. However, an out of court settlement requiring Trafigura to pay total 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million) in fines concluded the legal process in the Netherlands.

No studies have been undertaken to assess the long-term health impacts of the waste and the exact composition of the waste has not been made public. Thousands of Ivorians are yet to receive compensation.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Toxic waste dumping in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Country:Ivory Coast
State or province:Abidjan
Location of conflict:Abidjan
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
E-waste and other waste import zones
Specific commodities:Waste From Caustic Washing Of Coker Naphta (Unrefined Petroleum); Sodium Hydroxide, Mercaptides, Sulphides, Phenolates, Organochlorines And Organic Chemicals Such As Benzene, Xylenes And Toluen.
Chemical products
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Trafigura carried out a caustic washing process involving coker naphta, on board a ship called the Probo Koala. Between 150 and 200 tonnes of caustic soda was used in washing. The company attempted to deliver the waste in Amsterdam, but the Amsterdam Port Services (APS) raised the price from 27 euros/metre 3 to 1000 euros/metre 3.

It would have cost to Trafigura over US$ 630,000 to treat all the waste. In Ivory Coast, the company would pay US$30-35per m3 of waste.

A total of 523 million m3 of toxic waste was dumped in Abidjan, affecting an estimated 100 000 people. According to the government, 109.5 hectares of crops belonging to 245 farmers was destroyed and 455 animals were culled to avoid contamination.

Trafigura operates a fleet of up to 110 vessels traveling at any given time, carrying 6.5 million metric tonnes of liquid and 1.25 million metric tonnes of dry bulk cargo each month. In 2011 Trafiguras turnover was US$122 billion.

Trafiguras annual turnover dwarfs the gross national product of many states. By way of comparison, in 2006, Trafiguras turnover was US$45 billion, while Ivory Coast had a gross national product of approximately US$ 18 billion.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Unknown
Start of the conflict:20/08/2006
Company names or state enterprises:Trafigura (trading and logistics) from Netherlands
West African International Business Services (WAIBS) from Ivory Coast
Puma Energy - Trafigura subsidiary in Ivory Coast (The Netherlands)
Compagnie Tommy - newly licensed waste processing/disposal company
Pisa Impex from Ivory Coast - private company managing Akouedo dumpsite
Tredi from France - responsible for clean-up operations
Biogenie from Canada - responsible for clean-up operations
PMI trading - commercial arm of Mexicos state owned company PEMEX
Probo Koala Shipping Inc from Marshall Islands - Probo Koala ship, ship that was the site of refining) renamed Gulf Jash and later, Hua Feng
Prime Marine Management from Greece
Relevant government actors:Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Environment, Centre Ivoirien AntiPollution , part of the, Ivorian Ministry of Environment
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Maritime Organization (IMO)
UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste and Human Rights
UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT )
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)
Red Cross
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CIAPOL (Ivorian environmental agency), Union: Collectif des Travailleurs de Vridi, Basel Action Network,, Amnesty International,, Greenpeace Netherlands,, Leigh Day and Co,

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsNeurological, cutaneous, respiratory, digestive, ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) and opthalmological impacts, as well as in some cases, gynecological and cardiovascular problems. At high concentrations of waste, the effects can be very serious and include convulsions, coma and eventually, death.
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, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:-Trafigura should publicly disclose information about the waste, including scientific studies and information on its impacts
-AU member states should ratify the Basel and Bamako conventions and adopt their requirements into national legislation
-EU and member states should adopt a normative framework requiring companies to respect human rights and the environment and carry out adequate human rights due diligence throughout their operations. They should also make it mandatory for companies to disclosure their lobbying activities and positions in relation to national or international regulatory frameworks.
-The UK should begin a criminal prosecution against Trafigura
-Freedom from toxic waste dumping should be made a human right
-The government of Ivory Coast should publically report on how the compensation money received from Trafigura has been used to date; establish a process to ensure all victims are compensated; establish a medical study to evaluate the health of the affected population over time, in order to identify any long-term impacts; pursue investigations and prosecutions
against all involved in the misappropriation of compensation funds; publically report on the changes made in law, regulation and practice in Ivory Coast to prevent the illicit import and/or disposal of hazardous waste; Amend the criminal code of Ivory Coast to allow for companies to be held legally accountable for criminal conduct; assess the legality of the Protocol daccord, including the immunity from prosecution given to Trafigura.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Six years after the dumping of the waste, despite the huge numbers of people affected, international coverage of the issue and several legal proceedings, little has been done to strengthen national and international regulations to prevent similar incidents of dumping in the future. Trafigura still evades responsibility for the event. There are reports that the authorities in Ivory Coast failed to properly distribute compensation to victims. The Trafigura incident also led to superinjunctions in the UK preventing the media from reporting the issue thoroughly and having access to information. Trafigura has been convicted of illegally exporting waste in the Netherlands, but the Dutch courts decided that much of the substance of the allegations was beyond their jurisdiction. Trafigura was granted immunity from prosecution in Cote d Ivoire, as part of a local settlement. International organizations are calling for Trafigura to face a criminal trial in the UK.

Sources and Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Greenpeace. The Toxic Truth. (September 25, 2012).

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites




BBC Newsnight

Business and Human Rights

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Part 1:

Part 2:

Al Jazeera, 'Toxic waste dump in Ivory Coast- Transfigura faces probe'

BBC Services 'Dirty tricks and toxic waste in Ivory Coast'

Droit Libre TV, 'Dchets toxiques Abidjan: les victimes attendent toujours!'

Other comments:There is a lot of information for this particular case, not all of which could be mentioned above. The report by Greenpeace/Amnesty is the most detailed account, spanning a 3 year period.

Meta information

Contributor:Zahra Moloo
Last update08/04/2014