UN experts studying cyanide spill arrive in Hungary

BUDAPEST, Feb 28, 2000 -- (AFP) A group of U.N. experts studying pollution caused by a cyanide spill from a Romanian gold mine arrived in Hungary Monday to examine the effects of the spill here, a Hungarian official said.

The 25-member team, which has already carried out tests in Romania, was to start by taking water samples from the Somes River, which carried the spill into Hungary's Tisza and from here into the Danube.

After examining the northern Somes and Tisza sections, the group was to go on to probe a lower Tisza section between the villages Tivadar and Aranyosapati, said Sandor Szoeke, an environment official in the northern Szabolcs county.

During their stay, due to last until March 2, the U.N. experts will meet Hungarian local environment and water management officials to hear of moves taken so far to avert the damage, and plans for rehabilitation.

The U.N. team had spent the past few days in the Baia Mare region in Romania where the spill originated.

It took water and earth samples from the Aurul gold mine and its reservoir, from which some 100,000 cubic meters (3.5 million cubic feet) of cyanide-tainted water leaked a month ago into the Lapus and the Somes Rivers.

The cyanide was being used by the mine to leach gold from ore.

Hungarian officials said the spill killed over 100 tons of fish in the Tisza, but Romanian authorities claim that they may have died from bleach poured into the river to counteract the cyanide-tainted water.

Directors of the Australian firm Esmeralda Exploration, which runs the mine in a joint venture with the Bucharest government, have insisted that no link had been established between the cyanide spill and the death of the fish.

Hungary has angrily rejected both allegations, saying it had frozen samples of cyanide-poisoned fish, and adding: "Hungary is not suicidal enough to destroy its own rivers for years".

Original article