Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Environmental Information

Environmental Information Education Current Issues RSS Latest Environment News Service ENS: "Eastern European Governments Agree to Tackle Mining Pollution

CLUJ-NAPOCA, Romania, May 16, 2005 - A strategy for cleaning up old mines, smelters and processing facilities in Eastern Europe was adopted Saturday by governments at an international conference in Romania. The plan to reduce the environmental risks of mining was agreed by ministers and officials from a dozen countries in the region.

The more than 150 mining operations of concern are found in Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Kosovo. Some abandoned, and some still in operation, they have been extracting and processing metals such as zinc, cadmium, copper, bauxite, silver, and gold.

Over a third of these site pose a serious risk to human health, environment and regional stability experts have concluded. Studies, carried out on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), have found numerous old and abandoned sites that now present environmental, social and political problems.

Operational mines in the region also can pose a threat to the environment. In January 2000, cyanide pollution from the Baia Mare Aurul gold mine in northwestern Romania killed all the aquatic life in Hungary's Tisza River and downstream in the River Danube after a retention dam broke, spilling 100,000 cubic meters of wastewater.

Mine tailings from the Baia Mare gold mine cover the Tisza River. Damages were estimated at US$190 million. (Photo courtesy Tailings Info)
In 1999, the Romanian environment authorities had alerted the management of the Baia Mare mine to the potential risks associated with the dam after former employees of the company revealed that mistakes were made during the construction of the tailing basin."