The Age
Cyanide spill move a ruse, says Hungary

Friday 17 March 2000


Moves by the Australian company Esmeralda Exploration towards declaring bankruptcy were a "trick" to avoid paying millions in compensation after a cyanide spill that tainted river systems across Europe, a Hungarian official said yesterday.

Esmeralda placed itself in administration yesterday as its shares remained suspended, after a cyanide spill in January from the tailings dam of its half-owned Baia Mare gold tailings project in Romania.

The spill allegedly killed tonnes of fish, destroyed fishermen's livelihoods and poisoned the drinking water of more than two million people relying on rivers running through Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Ukraine.

Administrators said yesterday they were awaiting the release of reports into the spill before assessing Esmeralda's level of liability.

Mr Kim Strickland, of Hall Chadwick chartered accountants, said at least five environmental inquiries were being conducted into the incident, and those reports had to be studied before any "liability levels" could be determined.

The head of the Hungarian Parliament's environmental protection committee, Mr Zoltan Illes, said yesterday Esmeralda going into voluntary administration was a ruse to try to avoid responsibility.



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