Workers from the Misr Oil Processing Company fertiliser plant in Damietta clashed on Monday with protesting residents of the village of Sinaneya, leaving 28 wounded.
The clashes occurred when workers in charge of securing volatile ammonia tanks within the factory left and did not respond to commands by security forces to return.
Tensions caused by the heat, as well as the threat of ammonia leakages and the already-tense relationship between the two groups led to the clashes.
The MOPCO plant has been focal point for strife for some time in Damietta.
It was initially a Canadian fertiliser company named Agrium planning to build a fertiliser factory in the Damietta region.
After encountering heavy opposition- Damietta is the hub of the Nile Delta region and residents feared for their livelihoods- the project was referred to parliament and what followed was years of angry protests, suggestions of factory relocation, and the eventual cancellation of the project.
In the wake of the Egyptian uprising, construction on the MOPCO factory resumed, much to the anger of the residents who took to protesting and clashing with police forces once again.
In November of 2011, then-Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered the MOPCO factory to shut down operations.
In early January, a fact-finding committee, commissioned by the syndicate of scientific professors, was assigned to investigate the environmental and safety hazards of the MOPCO factory.
The committee found the factory to be completely environmentally safe.
Osama Aboul Enein, the syndicate’s secretary, said that the white smoke the factory emits, which some locals thought was toxic, is nothing but water vapour from the water used for cooling.
Aboul Enein added that fertilizer manufacturing takes place in a closed circle inside the factory with no leakage of any toxic chemicals.
In light of these discoveries, the green light was given for MOPCO to resume construction, to the consternation of the local activists and protesters who were not convinced.
Former employees- wishing for their jobs back- staged demonstrations in front of the presidential palace Saturday to demand the implementation of the court ruling that ordered MOPCO to reopen.
Workers were attacked repeatedly and asked the government to intervene.
Also on Saturday, armed individuals broke into the currently-defunct factory in spite of Chairman Saeed Hassan Abdel Aleem’s repeated requests for protection.
This led to allegations of sabotage and defamation against the people of Sinaneya by MOPCO’s lawyer, Mohamed El-Deed, as well as a denial by factory workers that they had anything to do with ammonia leaks.