From: Associated Press
Published October 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Hungary Wants Romania to Stop Gold Mine Development

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary's parliament said Tuesday that the European Union should ensure that Romania halts the development of a gold and silver mine that is regarded as a serious environmental threat.


"Hungary's biggest chance to stop the development is now," said Bela Turi-Kovacs, chairman of Hungary's environmental committee.


Romania hopes to join the E.U. in 2007, and Turi-Kovacs said the environmental chapter of the entry negotiations with the E.U. should not be closed until Romania pledges to stop the mine's development.


Hungary is worried that the mine in Rosia Montana, some 190 kilometers (120 miles) east of its border, may lead to a repeat of the environmental catastrophes of 2000, when two Romanian mines spewed large amounts of cyanide, lead, copper, and zinc ore into waters also feeding Hungarian rivers.


In one of the incidents, called at the time the most serious environmental casualty since Chernobyl, cyanide-laced water leaked from a reservoir at an Australian-owned gold mine into the Tisza River, killing much of its aquatic life.


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The Tisza is a tributary of the Danube River, which flows to the Black Sea.


The mine in Rosia Montana, known as Verespatak in Hungarian, would also use cyanide to extract gold from some 13 million tons of ore a year.


The 17-year, US$400 million (euro323 million) project is being developed by the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, a Canadian-Romanian joint venture.


Environmental Minister Miklos Persanyi said last month that Hungary would "do everything possible" to prevent the mine's development. Persanyi, who visited the site recently, said the mining project, expected to yield 300 tons of gold and 1600 tons of silver, would level the surrounding mountains and leave an open pit 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter.


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


Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and other officials have expressed their reluctance to accept it, and the plan has drawn criticism from Romanian archaeologists, historians, and environmentalists as well.


Source: Associated Press


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