Hungarians claim 4 mln euros in damages over cyanide spill

BUDAPEST, May 17, 2000 -- (AFP) People whose livelihoods were harmed by a cyanide spill into two Hungarian rivers in January have filed damages claims totaling 4 million euros (3.6 million dollars) so far, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Private citizens, small businesses and local authorities are claiming for lost revenue from tourism, fishing and local taxes after cyanide devastated the Somes and the Tisza rivers, said attorney Erika Mayer.

In the January incident, some 100,000 tons of cyanide residue spilled from a reservoir at the Aurul gold mining complex in neighboring Romania, flowed down the Somes into the Tisza and into the Danube.

The claims mostly demand compensation from the Aurul mining complex, but lawyers are examining whether to direct claims against its Australian co-owner Esmeralda Explorations Ltd, its financing banks or against the institute that had planned Aurul's dykes that breached, Mayer said.

The Hungarian state so far has not launched suits over the issue, although Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in February that it would definitely sue the Aurul complex and Esmeralda, and might sue the Romanian state as well.

Hungary claimed that the cyanide spill killed more than 1,200 tons of fish in Hungary alone. After the cyanide disaster, the Tisza and ther Somes rivers suffered two separate heavy metal pollution spills from other Romanian mines.

Original article