(OT) Romanian cyanide spill a 'European catastrophe'

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Romanian cyanide spill a 'European catastrophe'
Source: AFP
Published: Friday February 11, 6:58 AM

BUDAPEST, Feb 10 - The cyanide contamination of two Hungarian rivers by an accident at a goldmine in Romania amounts to a 'European catastrophe,' an EU official said today.

The European Union will investigate how it can help, including financially, after the spill over a week ago, European Comission vice-president Loyola de Palacio said in Budapest.

"This is a true European catastrophe," Palacio told journalists after talks here, adding that in her view Hungary should receive compensation from the mine, an Australian-Romanian joint venture, that contaminated its rivers.

"There is a clear principle in the EU that in general, who contaminates will pay for the restitution, although full restitution here is impossible," she said.

The cyanide spill last week from the Aurul gold mine in Sasar, Romania, killed all wildlife along the Somes, which flows into Hungary's second largest Tisza, and killed tons of fish in the upper section of the Tisza. The Tisza flows into the Danube in Yugoslavia.

Hungarian authorities banned fishing and all contact with the water after the leak reached Hungary on the Somes from neigboring Romania last week.

The poison was drifting near the southern town Csongrad Thursday in a diluted form, but its cyanide concentration was still some 20 times the allowed maximum, experts told AFP.

At Csongrad, emergency services were filling railway carriages with hundreds of kilograms of dead fish after they blocked the river with barges, an AFP reporter witnessed.

The Hungarian government, meanwhile, rejected an accusation by Esmeralda Exploration, the Australian mining company that co-owns the mine, that Budapest had exaggerated the environmental damage caused.

"A person who calls a five-kilometre long carpet of dead fish floating along the river 'grossly exaggerated' is either genuinely unaware of the facts or wants to ignore them," said foreign ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath.

Horvath was speaking after the Australian company's chairman, Brett Montgomery, said in Perth, Western Australia, that unrelated events could be responsible for a massive number of fish killed in the area.

"Based on information received overnight from Romania, I can confidently say that the incident has been grossly exaggerated," Montgomery said.

"Although full details are still some days away, all indications to date support our belief that the accident did not cause a major environmental incident."

Horvath, expressing 'sadness and incomprehension' at Montgomery's statement, confirmed that Budapest was studying international and private law to seek compensation from Romania and Esmeralda Exploration.

"The demand for compensation naturally comes up," he said. He confirmed, though, that Hungary was not planning moves against the Australian federal government.

"There is no Australian state participation in the mine," Horvath said.


Another article;


I think this is more than a European issue per se...

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 11, 2000

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