UN assessment of cyanide spill emerges

During meeting in Vienna, experts give outline of findings to be released next week

Preliminary results from a UN-sponsored investigation into January's disastrous cyanide spill from a Romanian gold mine emerged today in Vienna during a meeting of the International commission for the protection of the Danube. UN task force leader Frits Schlingemann said a combination of bad weather, bad design of the tailings dam that collapsed and poor management were behind the spillage, which wiped out all life for hundreds of kilometres downstream along the Tisza river (ENDS Daily 10 February).

Liliana Mara, head of Romanian delegation to the Danube commission, warned that incidents like Baia Mare could reoccur. "An accident like this...could happen again quite easily," she said. "There has been a lot of rain in the region. The Romanian authorities do not know if the dams holding back muds contaminated with cyanide and heavy metals will withstand the bad weather".

Ms Mara's comments follow a second large spill from a Romanian lead and zinc mine earlier this month (ENDS Daily 13 March). News that the Baia Borsa mine has in fact suffered two spillages this month emerged earlier this week.

Also present at today's presentation was the chair of a parallel EU-led task force on the Baia Mare accident, which is focusing its efforts more on responses. This held its first meeting earlier this month (ENDS Daily 14 March). The UN group is due to formally release its findings on Baia Mare next week.

Follow Up:
UN Regional Office for Europe, tel: +41 22 917 1234.

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