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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2000 / press_cyanidedisaster




For immediate release
Wednesday, 16 February 2000



In reaction to the disastrous cyanide spill affecting major rivers in Eastern Europe, Friends of the Earth International has renewed calls to governments and industry to ban dangerous mining technologies, switch to available better alternatives, prevent double standards, and hold companies liable for their actions.

"Once again, just like in Spanish Coto Donana, U.S. Summitville, Kumtor in Kyrgizstan and Omai in Guayana, we are witnessing the serious consequences of continuing with this outdated, unnecessary and extremely destructive industry. The mining company’s interest is nothing more than profit at the expense of people, communities, local economies and the environment", said Gabriel Rivas-Ducca (Costa Rica) of Friends of the Earth International.

Friends of the Earth International particularly calls on governments and industry to:

  • ban new large-scale, toxic gold mines worldwide. This extremely risky technology should be outlawed. Last year, the U.S. State of Montana banned cyanide heap-leaching technology in gold mining. Gold dominates the hard rock mining industry: almost 70% of all new mining exploration in this sector is devoted to the precious metal.
  • stop using public money to fund projects such as the Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea (financed by the EU's European Investment Bank), which uses dangerous cyanide technology and produces almost 90 million tons of toxic tailings.
  • exploit alternative, local-based solutions instead of this unsustainable technology. Large-scale gold mining is simply not necessary. Central banks throughout the world have gold reserves of more than 35,000 tons, enough to cover demands for primary metal at current consumption levels for more than 14 years. Meanwhile, a number of banks recently started selling off their gold in reaction to falling prices. Also, some 78% of gold production is used in jewellery.
  • legally binding tools in companies’ home countries to prevent double standards.
  • make companies accountable and fully liable for their actions, particularly for clean-up after accidents. The Australian Esmeralda Exploration company, manager of the mine, recently started denying responsibility for the pollution. However, the Romanian government said it had issued "repeated written warnings" to the company in the past over the state of equipment on site.

Jozsef Feiler of Friends of the Earth Hungary said: "It is infuriating that the Australian company flatly denies responsibility for the obvious damage it has caused. The double standards Esmeralda and similar companies are using in their home countries and abroad are unacceptable. All companies should be fully financially liable for damage to human health and the environment, wherever it occurs."

The cyanide spill from the Baia Mare mine in Romania has caused severe pollution of two major East European rivers, the Tisza and the Danube. Reports claim that water life has been eradicated in the affected waterways. The spill is now heading for Danube delta, a wetland of global importance and one of Europe's best wildlife habitats.


Gabriel Rivas-Ducca, Mining Campaign International Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International (Costa Rica), telephone +506-2233925, email

Jozsef Feiler, Friends of the Earth Hungary, telephone +36-1-2167297, mobile +36-30-2475695, email

Vojtech Kotecky, Mining Campaign Regional Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International (Czech Republic), telephone +420-2-290909, 24919187, mobile +420-602-290474, email:

Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest environmental grass root network with members in 61 countries.

See Friends of the Earth Hungary's daily updated web site on the Baia Mare disaster at:





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