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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2000 / 15_dec_cyanide


15 december 2000
washington dc

eu releases report on cyanide disaster

international mining environment groups call for worldwide mining law reform s

Today, Friends of the Earth in Hungary, the Mineral Policy Center in the USA and the Mineral Policy Institute in Australia call for mining operations to be controlled by proper international standards wherever the companies are operating and not just in the European Union.

The call comes as the European Union releases a report on the Esmeralda cyanide mining disaster that polluted a 2000 kilometre stretch of the Danube River system catchment.

This spill, which was called Europe's worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl, forced the European Union to look at implementing strict legislation to control the operations of foreign mining companies. Current voluntary codes of conduct are totally inadequate.

In January 2000, Australian miner Esmeralda spilt 100 million litres of cyanide contaminated water into Romanian rivers. The pollution flowed through Hungary to Yugoslavia and into the Danube, decimating fish populations on the way and devastating the livelihoods of people along the river.

"Mining companies need to be held accountable and international standards need to be put in place to prevent future catastrophes." said Geoff Evans, Mineral Policy Institute, Australia. "The international records of Australian, Canadian, USA and British mining companies are atrocious."

"The Esmeralda disaster is only one of numerous spills and ongoing day-to-day pollution problems are unacceptable," said Steve D’Esposito, Mineral Policy Center, USA. "The industry must learn that clean rivers and healthy ecosystems are more precious than gold”

The Hungarian government has submitted a claim of USD 110 million for compensation, which shows the magnitude of damage. The cyanide killed killing over one million kilograms of fish in Hungary.

"The concerns of impacted people in Hungary is raised, but the silence about the ongoing impact on local population around the mine site is a serious issue which is not addressed", said Jozsef Feiler, Friends of the Earth, Hungary.

“The poor record Rumanian authorities goes hand in hand the cynical and negligent approach of the Australian company using double-standards. Practices continue in Eastern Europe that would not be allowed in Australia”, concluded Mr Feiler.

Everyday practices of International mining companies are also causing massive environmental and social damage. These companies routinely dump waste directly into rivers and oceans, and destroy farmland with acid drainage that leaks off mine sites and into river systems.

What has resulted from such practices are farming communities that can no longer work their land and river communities devastated by waterways choked with mine waste.

"Today, we call for and end to what amounts to an environmental double standard," MPC's D'Esposito said. "There has to be an international effort toprotect developing countries from mining practices that would not be allowed where these companies have their headquarters -- The U.S., Australia, Canada or Britain."

Such standards should deal with:

  • The need to regulate mining companies by strong international regulations
  • The ineffectiveness of voluntary regulation
  • The long term pollution problems created by mining
  • Protection of sensitive ecosystems and protected areas
  • Bans on inherently destructive practices such as river and ocean waste disposal
  • Compensation for those directly affected by mining disasters
  • Creation of a baseline mechanisms that identify parties financially liable for cleanup when disasters occur.

For more information contact:
Geoff Evans or Simon Divecha, Mineral Policy Institute, Sydney, Australia:
From Australia: 0418 261 404 or 0428 77 5540
From Overseas: +61 418 261 404 or +61 428 77 5540

Jozsef Feiler, Friends of the Earth Hungary
From Hungary: 302 475 695
From Overseas: +36 302475695

Chris Cervini or Steve D’Esposito, Mineral Policy Center, Washington, USA
From North America: 202 887-1872 ext. 207 or ext. 203
From Overseas: 1 202 887-1872 ext. 207 or ext. 203

Magda Stoczkiewicz
Accession project coordinator
CEE Bankwatch Network
Friends of the Earth Europe
29 rue Blanche
1060 Brussels

phone: +32 2 5420188
fax: +32 2 537 55 96



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