News / 21 January 2010

Hungary prohibits use of cyanide in mining

On 7 December 2009 the overwhelming majority of the Hungarian Parliament voted to oppose the use of cyanide in gold mining. So doing, Hungary has set a new global environmental standard and can thus play a leading role in banning the use of cyanide in the European mining sector.


30 January 2010 marked the ten year anniversary of one of the largest environmental disasters to hit Eastern Europe. A gold mine dam broke near the town of Baia Mare in northern Romania, flooding the rivers Lăpuş, Somes and Tisza with 100,000 cubic meters of toxic waste water containing caustic cyanide. Some 1,400 tons of dead fish floated in the water, while drinking water and soil in the region were poisoned and fishermen along the Tisza in Hungary lost their source of income. A new disaster hit the Baia Borsa mine a few weeks later when another dam broke, flooding the river with 20,000 tons of mud containing heavy metals. 


The Hungarian ban on cyanide use in mining gives hope to countries like Bulgaria and Romania. So, for example, villagers from Rosia Montana in Romania have been fighting for years to try and stop cyanide-based mining technology. The owner of a nearby gold mine plans to discharge waste water containing cyanide into a special valley. Locals fear a new environmental disaster and have been trying to prevent these plans from being carried out. 

Both ENDS hopes that Romania and Bulgaria will follow the example of the Hungarian government by banning the use of cyanide in mining. For over a decade, Both ENDS has supported local communities threatened by large scale mining projects. In collaboration with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), alternative ways of mining gold are being implemented. The Fairtrade gold is being sold in the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.   


For more information about ARM or Fairtrade gold, please contact Maaike Hendriks.


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