Brazil's Federal Police Target Braskem Employees Over Safety Concerns at Closed Salt Mine

Jan. 2, 2024
Authorities say they found evidence indicating that mining activities carried out at the site did not follow proper safety measures

Brazil's federal police executed 14 search and seizure warrants aimed at current and former Braskem employees linked to a salt mine facing the threat of collapse, Bloomberg News reported.

The searches occurred on the morning of Dec. 21 and spanned three cities, Brazil’s federal police said in a news release.

The authorities say they found evidence indicating that mining activities carried out at the site did not follow proper safety measures, which would have ensured mine stability and the safety of the neighboring population. 

The federal police also say they found signs of falsified information that allowed for work to continue when stability problems existed in the salt cavities.

The Associated Press reported that the mine, located in in Maceio, Brazil, partially collapsed on Dec. 10.

The mine has been inactive since 2019. Over the past four years, approximately 40,000 residents from the affected regions have relocated due to safety concerns and are receiving compensation from Braskem. 

Braskem’s advanced monitoring network first detected “unusual soil movement” in the area on Nov. 28, said Stacy Torpey, a communications director for Braskem, in an email response to Chemical Processing on Dec. 13. Braskem stopped operations underway to close the wells and promptly informed the Civil Defense of the Municipality of Maceió, Torpey said. The entire area is under continuous 24-hour monitoring and has been isolated, she added.

The company has been closing wells at the mine under a plan approved by Brazil’s National Mining Agency. The plan is 70% complete and on track to be finished by mid-2025, Torpey said.

On Dec. 10, surveillance cameras monitoring the area around one of the excavation sites on Dec. 10 recorded unusual water movement in the Mundaú lagoon near the mine, particularly in the section above the cavity, Torpey said. 

The activity indicated the potential for soil movement with a risk of collapse. The ground monitoring system captured the movement through a differential global positioning system installed close to the region. The entire area remained isolated.

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

“From the beginning, Braskem has prioritized the safety of individuals and has worked collaboratively with authorities to address the impacts of ground subsidence in the Bebedouro, Bom Parto, Pinheiro, Mutange, and Farol neighborhoods, in Maceió,” Torpey said in the email statement. 

About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Executive Editor

Jonathan Katz, executive editor, brings nearly two decades of experience as a B2B journalist to Chemical Processing magazine. He has expertise on a wide range of industrial topics. Jon previously served as the managing editor for IndustryWeek magazine and, most recently, as a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for the manufacturing sector.

His knowledge areas include industrial safety, environmental compliance/sustainability, lean manufacturing/continuous improvement, Industry 4.0/automation and many other topics of interest to the Chemical Processing audience.

When he’s not working, Jon enjoys fishing, hiking and music, including a small but growing vinyl collection.

Jon resides in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

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