Brazil police launch raids over Braskem’s sinking ground havoc

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Brazil’s federal police on Thursday conducted raids as part of a probe into petrochemical producer Braskem’s sinking ground havoc in the city of Maceio, which has forced about 60,000 people to be moved since 2018.

The subsidence related to the operations of Braskem’s more than thirty salt mines under the coastal city of nearly 1 million people in northeastern Brazil was thrust back in the spotlight this month after part of a mine collapsed.

Braskem’s mines began extracting rock salt in Maceio in the 1970s but operations were halted in 2019 after authorities said they contributed to five neighborhoods sinking, making the area ‘uninhabitable’.

Federal police said in a statement they had launched an operation called ‘Salty Tears’ to advance investigations into what they dubbed “crimes committed during the years of rock salt exploration in Maceio”.

Braskem in a separate securities filing said the police operation targeted “members and former members of the company” as well as its Alagoas chloralkali plant, but did not provide further details.

The firm added it had made itself available to the authorities.

Police served 14 search and seizure warrants in Maceio, Rio de Janeiro and Aracaju under orders from a federal court in the state of Alagoas, where Maceio is located.

“Evidence was found that the mining activities did not follow the safety parameters set out in the scientific literature and in the respective mining plans,” federal police said.

“Furthermore, signs were identified that false data was presented and relevant information omitted from public bodies responsible for monitoring the activities,” they added.

(Reporting by Fernando Cardoso and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Chizu Nomiyama)