The Age
Esmeralda clams up on spill

By PHILIP SHERWELL AND DAVID WASTELL

Monday 14 February 2000


The Australian company that half owns the gold mine that caused an environmental disaster in Eastern Europe said yesterday it would not comment further on the issue until it had received more information from Europe.

A spokesman for the Perth-based Esmeralda Exploration Ltd said the company was still waiting for test results on the concentration of cyanide in the water and post-mortems on dead fish found in polluted river water.

The spokesman said the company had been waiting since last week for the information, which had still not arrived.

Esmeralda is being blamed for an environmental crisis that has affected the drinking water of an estimated 2.5 million people in Hungary and killed up to 10 tonnes of fish.

It is estimated about 100,000 cubic metres of cyanide-tainted water flowed into two streams and later into the Tisza River - Hungary's second biggest after the Danube - after overflowing from a tailings dam at the mine on 30 January.

The Hungarian Government has blamed the mine, which has been operating for a year, for the crisis. But Esmeralda has so far refused to take blame for the catastrophe.

"I can confidently say that the incident has been grossly exaggerated," said the company's chairman, Mr Brett Montgomery.




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