Braskem Rock Salt Mine in Maceio, Brazil, Faces Partial Collapse

Dec. 11, 2023
Emergency declared, lawsuit filed and city on high alert

A closed rock salt mine owned by Braskem partially collapsed on Dec. 10 in Maceio, Brazil, the Associated Press reported.

The Brazilian petrochemical giant confirmed that its cameras monitoring the surroundings of an excavation site showed evidence of a potential collapse.

“At 1:15 p.m. this Sunday, cameras monitoring the surroundings of Cavity 18 recorded an unusual water movement in the Mundaú lagoon, over this cavity section, indicating movement in the lagoon soil with potential collapse,” Braskem said in a news release. “The entire area, which has been under surveillance in recent days, has already been isolated. A similar movement occurred around 1:45 p.m. The soil monitoring system detected the movement through DGPS installed in the region.”

Braskem added that it promptly notified authorities and that the company continues to collaborate with them.

The city’s civil defense authority had earlier warned that Maceio was on alert as a collapse risk, Bloomberg News reported on Dec. 9.

The mine was sinking at a rate of 0.54 centimeters an hour or 13 centimeters (5 inches) a day, Bloomberg reported, citing a statement from city authorities. That’s the fastest rate in a week.

On Nov. 30, Maceió declared a state of emergency for 180 days due to mine-related risks, Bloomberg reported. That same day, Braskem received notification that a civil lawsuit had been filed against the company for 1 billion reais ($205 million) for potential damages in Maceio, Alagoas, related to neighborhoods collapsing into the mines built under the city, Bloomberg reported on Dec. 6.

The mine has been inactive since 2019. In 2021, Braskem reached a settlement with the state of Alagoas. Under the agreement, Braskem said it would take measures to stabilize the rock salt wells, monitor the area and compensate residents in the neighborhoods. About 15,000 properties fell under the financial remediation and relocation settlement agreement.

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