US oil giant Chevron has been fined £5.3bn by a court in Ecuador for polluting a large part of the country’s Amazon region.
Texaco, the oil firm which merged with Chevron in 2001, was accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and Amazon rivers.
The billion-pound lawsuit was brought against Chevron in 2003 by lawyers on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadoreans who claimed that crops were damaged and farm animals killed, and that local cancer rates increased.
Pablo Fajardo, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the BBC that the court ruling was “a triumph of justice over Chevron’s crime and economic power”.
The company will also have to pay a 10% legally mandated reparations fee, bringing the total cost to £5.9bn ($9.5bn).
However, Chevron plans to appeal against the decision and has criticised the court’s ruling in a statement on its website.
“The Ecuadorian court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable. It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence. Chevron will appeal this decision in Ecuador and intends to see that justice prevails.”
This isn’t the first time the company has faced court action for allegations of pollution. In 2003, ChevronTexaco was fined £1.3m by Angola for an oil spill off the African nation’s northwest coast.
Other energy firms fined for pollution include Exxon, which was ordered by an Alaskan judge in 2004 to pay £2.5bn in damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
And some reports have suggested that BP could face fines of up to £21bn for the oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico last year caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon.