Romanian gold mine reservoir level to be lowered

BUCHAREST, Feb 21, 2000 -- (AFP) A dyke will be opened to reduce the water level in a Romanian gold mine reservoir because heavy rains are threatening to cause a repeat of January's ecological disaster, when cyanide-tainted water from the reservoir entered rivers, experts decided Sunday.

The panel of Romanian experts said the operation would be accomplished "under the strict surveillance" of the gold mine's owners, the Romanian-Australian Aurul company.

There is "no danger of a repeat of the January 31 incident at this moment," the panel said.

An environment ministry official, George Lazea, said Saturday that action must be taken against the rising water level in the reservoir, due to heavy rains in recent weeks.

On Friday the international environmental pressure group the Worldwide Fund for Nature said the reservoir could not have been totally secured and could still represent a danger for wildlife and local people.

The environment ministry meanwhile said on Sunday that the concentration of cyanide in the Romanian part of the Danube was below the permissible rate.

A water well serving the city of Turnu-Seeverin in southwest Romania, closed for several days, should be put back in operation overnight, the ministry added.

Experts are studying the possible causes of the accident, which Hungary claims saw 3.5 million cubic feet (100,000 liters) of cyanide-laced water burst from the reservoir at the gold mine and flood into Danube tributaries poisoning wildlife and forcing fishermen and water firms to stop work.

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