From: Associated Press
Published May 16, 2005 12:00 AM

U.N. Official Urges Southeast Europe to Work to Prevent Environment Mining Accidents

CLUJ, Romania — A top United Nations official has urged countries in southeast Europe to take steps to prevent new environmental accidents at mines in the region.

The most recent accident happened in 2000 at a gold mine in northeast Romania, where a cyanide spill in the mine's reservoir also affected Hungarian waters and killed much of the aquatic life in the Tisza River, Hungary's second most important waterway.

"We need to do everything to prevent such accidents from ever repeating," said Klaus Toepfer, who is Executive Director of the UN Environment Program.

He took part in a meeting in Cluj with experts from 12 southeast European countries.

At the meeting, Hungary's Environmental Minister Miklos Persanyi expressed concern about another gold mine that is being developed in Romania.

The US$400 million (euro323 million) project is being developed by the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, a Canadian-Romanian joint venture.

Persanyi said the project was not feasible in its current form due to concerns over pollution.

Hungary is opposed to the mine -- which will also use cyanide to extract gold -- because it fears that an eventual spill would affect its waters.

"We are interested that mining activity around Hungary be as safe as possible," he said. "We can have quality waters only if neighboring countries ensure there is quality water in the rivers which flow to us," Persanyi said.

Although the project was launched more than three years ago, it still needs approval from Romanian authorities before it can begin production.

Romania's government has expressed its reluctance to accept it, and the plan has drawn criticism from Romanian archaeologists, historians and environmentalists as well.

The 12 southeast European countries also pledged to make an inventory of mines in the region and clean up and close rapidly those that pose a high risk to the environment.

Source: Associated Press

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