The Age
Cyanide flow hits Danube reserve

Wednesday 23 February 2000

BUCHAREST - A wave of water carrying cyanide from a Romanian gold mine, part-owned by an Australian company, reached the Danube delta on the Black Sea yesterday, as it was revealed that leakage of cyanide from the mine may be continuing.

The Interfax news agency said the highly toxic chemical had reached the Ukrainian-Romanian Danube delta, a unique nature reserve, after passing through rivers in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Romanian state radio said that a cyanide solution still appeared to be leaking from the gold-refining operation in Baia Mare, Romania.

Perth-based Esmeralda Exploration owns 50per cent of the mine.

State radio said seven wells near the mine's sludge basin were now poisoned. Only five wells were poisoned a week earlier.

Health authorities in the region said the cyanide appeared to have reached the wells via a sewage ditch - which runs next to the sludge basin - and then through the village of Bozanta.

The news appeared to confirm fears that environment protection measures at the Aurul mine had been inadequate.

Hungary has said it will take Esmeralda to court for damages. The country has collected 500 tonnes of dead fish from the Tisza River since the toxic spill on 30 January.

The Bulgarian Environment Minister, Ms Evdokija Maneva, said her country would demand compensation from Romania.

Authorities in the northern Romanian region of Constanta closed the Danube-Black Sea canal to shipping, the official news agency Rompres said, adding that river patrols would ensure that there was no fishing from the Danube and that cattle did not water at the river.

No dead fish or birds have been found in the delta so far, but Ukrainian ecologists continued round-the-clock monitoring of the Danube water, reports said.

Original article