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Asunto:[LEA] ENVIRONMENT: Call for International Mining Standards to Protect
Fecha:Domingo, 29 de Octubre, 2000  09:25:03 (-0400)
Autor:anna ponte <anaponte @...net>

 
> 
>       Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. 
>          Worldwide distribution via the APC networks. 
> 
>                      *** 26-Oct-0* *** 
> 
>Title: ENVIRONMENT: Call for International Mining Standards to Protect 
>the 
>Environment 
> 
>By Danielle Knight 
> 
>WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (IPS) - Following January's cyanide spill in 
>Romania 
>and new reports on mining disasters from China, environmentalists 
>are 
>calling for governments worldwide to adopt international mining 
>standards. 
> 
>At issue is pollution caused by unstable ''tailings dams'' that 
>retain 
>effluents on mining sites. When these structures collapse, the 
>pollutants - 
>including heavy metals and other harmful chemicals - contaminate 
>local 
>surroundings. 
> 
>''There are no international standards for such structures and 
>time and again 
>we have seen such disasters poison wildlife and destroy 
>ecosystems,'' says 
>Stephen D'Esposito, president of the Mineral Policy Centre (MPC), 
>an advocacy 
>group based here. 
> 
>He says wildlife along a tributary of the Danube river in Europe 
>has still not 
>recovered from a cyanide spill that resulted from the tailings dam 
>failure at 
>the Baia-Mare gold mine in Northwestern Romania. 
> 
>The top of the dam overflowed and released an estimated 100,000 
>cubic 
>metres of cyanide-laced wastewater within 11 hours. The cyanide 
>waste from the 
>gold smelter, half owned by the Australian corporation Esmeralda 
>Exploration 
>Ltd, was carried by the Tisza river through Hungary to Yugoslavia 
>where it 
>continued flowing down the Danube. 
> 
>United Nations experts investigating the spill said the cyanide 
>killed 
>thousands of fish in Hungary and Yugoslavia and was one of the 
>worst river 
>pollution accidents in Europe. 
> 
>''I think we have to have much more strict rules in the mining 
>sector in 
>countries of this region so this type of accident will not 
>happen,'' Pekka 
>Haavisto, head of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Balkan 
>Task Force told 
>reporters in February at a news conference in Belgrade. 
> 
>Environmentalists compared the Romanian mining spill to when a 
>tailings 
>dam at the Los Frailes zinc mine in southern Spain ruptured in 
>April 1998 and 
>released an estimated four to five million cubic metres of acid, 
>metal-laden 
>tailings into a major river and over adjacent farmlands. Massive 
>fish kills 
>were reported. 
> 
>This week United Nations officials and representatives from 25 
>governments are 
>meeting in Perth, Australia to participate in workshops of 
>environmental 
>safety 
>in mining. 
> 
>The stability of tailings dams is one of the main issues being 
>discussed. 
> 
>''Workshops have examined the role of voluntary codes for the use 
>of 
>cyanide in mining and emergency responses,'' said Klaus Toepfer, 
>executive 
>director of the UNEP. 
> 
>Last week another major tailings-dam failure was reported. 
> 
>Media reports from China said at least 15 people were killed in 
>Guangxi 
>province when an embankment holding back mine waste collapsed. 
>According to 
>Associated Press reports, the collapse and subsequent wave of 
>wastewater, 
>mud and stones buried or destroyed many buildings, including three 
>worker 
>dormitories. 
> 
>The Beijing Post reported that the disaster occurred at a 
>government-owned 
>zinc mine. 
> 
>''This is another in a series of tailings-dam failures around the 
>world,'' 
>says 
>D'Esposito. 
> 
>Since 1971, more than 30 major contamination spills on mining 
>sites worldwide 
>have been caused by failures in tailings dams, according to 
>information 
>compiled by the World Information Service on Energy (WISE), an 
>international 
>network of environmental activists. 
> 
>One of the more infamous tailings dam failures occurred in the 
>South American 
>country Guyana in 1995 which resulted in 4.2 million cubic metres 
>of highly 
>toxic cyanide-laced mine waste released into the Essequibo River, 
>the nation's 
>main waterway. 
> 
>According to the MPC, the spill killed fish, produced panic in 
>Guyana's 
>seafood export market, and caused major problems for many 
>residents who depend 
>on the river for drinking water, fishing, irrigation, and 
>transportation. Mine 
>sediment was reported as far as 80 kilometres down river. 
> 
>Guyana had no national environmental protection statute nor any 
>adequate 
>mining regulations in place, according to MPC. The mining 
>operation 
>was governed by a contract between the government and the mine 
>operator, 
>Canadian-based Cambior Inc. 
> 
>The nation's heavy economic dependence on the mine - which made up 
>approximately 20 percent of Guyana's gross national product - 
>created an 
>incentive for the government to keep the mine operating despite 
>its 
>environmental problems, argues MPC. 
> 
>The Guyanese government had relied on the company for most of its 
>information 
>and technical expertise about the mine. Cambior maintained that 
>the tailings 
>dam was designed and constructed to meet ''North American 
>standards.'' 
> 
>By judging some tailings dam failures in the United States, 
>environmentalists 
>say North America mines are not exactly models of how to protect 
>the 
>environment and public health. 
> 
>Earlier this month in the southern US state of Kentucky, a 
>tailings dam 
>failure at a coal mine operated by the Martin County Coal 
>Corporation led to 
>the release of 950,000 cubic metres of coal waste released into 
>local streams. 
>The dam broke as a result of the collapse of an underground mine 
>beneath the 
>slurry impoundment 
> 
>According to local press reports, about 120 kilometres of rivers 
>and streams 
>turned black, causing a fish kill. Some towns nearby were forced 
>to turn off 
>their drinking water intakes that drew water from the contaminated 
>sources. 
> 
>''How many rivers have to be contaminated before the world 
>adequately 
>addresses unsafe mine-waste disposal?'' asks 
>D'Esposito.(END/IPS/EN/dk/da/00) 
> 
> 
>Origin: Rome/ENVIRONMENT/ 
>                              ---- 
> 
>       [c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) 
>                     All rights reserved 
> 
>  May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or 
>  service outside  of  the  APC  networks,  without  specific 
>  permission from IPS.  This limitation includes distribution 
>  via  Usenet News,  bulletin board  systems, mailing  lists, 
>  print media  and broadcast.   For information about  cross- 
>  posting,   send   a   message  to   <wdesk@...>.    For 
>  information  about  print or  broadcast reproduction please 
>  contact the IPS coordinator at <online@...>. 
> 
> 
 
 
 
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