Friday, 16 October 2009

Was Minton wrong about Trafigura?

John Minton
Minton, Treharne & Davies Ltd
Merton House
Croescadarn Close
CF23 8HF

Dear Mr Minton,

I wonder if you can help me please. I'm a science teacher based in Scotland trying to raise pupil interest in science through topical issues. We've been following the Trafigura slops-dumping incident and its consequences and would like to ask you a question, if we may.

On Tuesday 13 Oct 2009 solicitors Carter-Ruck issued a press release stating that a judge recently "fully endorsed Trafigura’s long-maintained position that the Probo Koala’s slops simply could not have caused deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths, birth defects or other serious or long-term injuries."

This followed thorough analysis, they continued, by "20 independent experts in what has been by far the most detailed consideration of these matters anywhere in the world".

This statement, as you know, flatly contradicts the report you wrote on 14 September 2006. In that report you concluded that the slops were "a mixture of spent NaOH, naphtha, free water and an organo-metallic catalyst used in the Merox reaction. This mixture was also likely to contain several reaction intermediates and by-products, including but not limited to Na2S, NaHS, NaSR, RSSR and H2S."

These compounds, you continue, "are capable of causing severe human health effects through inhalation and ingestion. These include headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea, eye irritation, skin ulceration, unconsciousness and death. All of these effects were as reported in the incident."

Can you help my students and me to understand this drastic difference of expert opinion? Is the chemistry you lucidly described in your report simply wrong?

Did you make mistakes in your analysis, and if so could you explain for the benefit of our science students exactly what those mistake were?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Douglas Blane

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