River disaster preventable, WWF tells mining industry

Report
from World Wide Fund For Nature
Published on 11 Feb 2000
Brussels, Belgium WWF, the conservation organisation, will tell the mining industry and the European Commission at a meeting on mining and the environment tomorrow in Brussels that the spill of cyanide and other toxic waste into tributaries of the Danube in Romania and Hungary was predictable and preventable.
The meeting between the mining industry and the Commission takes place as experts assess the damage caused by the toxic spill in Romania and Hungary at the end of January. WWF will attend the meeting and point out that:
  • the disasters in Romania, and two years previously in the Guadiamar river in Southern Spain, were predictable and preventable;
  • there have been too many disasters, spills, leakages and accidents involving toxic waste lagoons connected to mining;
  • the technology now exists to eliminate or substantially reduce most environmental impacts of mining;
  • the mining industry must prevent toxic spills from from mining waste and build toxic waste dams that cannot flood or break;
  • voluntary agreements of the type being discussed by the mining industry and the European Commission are not enough on their own and that the industry should support a review of existing EU legislation;
  • the mining industry must fully co-operate in drawing up an inventory of toxic waste lagoons connected to mining;
  • the mining industry must fill in the substantial gaps in information on the location of these lagoons, including those that have been abandoned.
Tony Long, Director of WWF's European Policy Office, said "WWF welcomes the meeting between the mining industry and the European Commisison on mining and the environment. But WWF has a very clear message for the mining industry: it must put into place systems of mining waste storage that do not devastate the environment with predictable and unnecessary regularity. Only a firm commitment to bring the mining industry into the world of 21st century technology and environmental standards will restore public confidence which is at an all-time low."

NOTE: WWF today released exclusive video footage of the cyanide spill disaster in Hungary and Romania with interviews on the spot with WWF experts. Interviewed by WWF for the video, Dr Paul Younger, a mining expert at Newcastle University, says "The precautions necessary to stop cyanide leaving mine sites all over the world are very simple and they amount to basic plumbing."

For further information:

Julian Scola, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office, tel: +32 2 743 8806, email: jscola@wwfnet.org