From: Associated Press
Published September 7, 2005 12:00 AM

E.U. Parliament Backs Strict Waste Management Rules for European Mines and Quarries

STRASBOURG, France — The European Parliament on Tuesday backed new rules meant to curb pollution from mines and quarries, and to prevent waste from those sites from seeping into nearby rivers, lakes or water reservoirs.


EU member states drafted the rules following the 2000 leak of cyanide-laced water from a gold mine in Romania that killed fish, plants and wildlife along the Danube River in one of worst environmental accidents since the explosion at the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl 20 years ago. The toxic waters spilled from a gold mine's reservoir into the Tisza River, a tributary of the Danube, which flows to the Black Sea.


The new directive requires EU governments to monitor and control mining companies and how they handle waste, such as silt, coal ash, waste rock and contaminated or toxic materials and chemicals.


Companies also must follow EU licensing and operation guidelines for waste sites, to prevent accidents or deliberate leaks into local ecosystems, according to the new rules, which also would apply to closed sites and their waste storage facilities.


Mining waste amounts to about 400 million tons a year, accounting for about 20 percent of total waste generated in the EU. Some of the mining waste may contain dangerous substances such as heavy metals, but a significant part is harmless and can be reused, for example, in road-building.


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The EU legislators exempted non-hazardous waste from some of the new rules, and also amended certain measures concerning the terms of financial guarantees companies must deposit before starting any operation that involves amassing mining waste.


The Council of Ministers, the EU's decision making body made up of national ministers, now must decide whether to accept the parliament's amendments before the new rules go into effect.


Source: Associated Press


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