Dec 28, 2000

New Romania River Pollution Surfaces Near Ukraine, Hungary

BUCHAREST -- Romanian officials said on Tuesday that lead residues from a
Romanian mine had again polluted a river that flows into the Danube, two months
after a cyanide spill in the area caused a major environmental disaster.
The Environment Ministry said heavy rainfalls and melting snow had broken a
five-meter stretch of the wall of a dam at the state-run Baia Borsa lead and
zinc mine for the second time this month.
A Ministry statement said the incident had occurred more than 24 hours ago
but that plant managers had failed to report it immediately.
The Ministry said that authorities in Ukraine and Hungary had been notified
of the incident.
Samples of water from the river Tisa that flows near the Baia Borsa mine
showed traces of lead at 2.7 times above permitted levels.
The samples were taken at a point where the Tisa crosses from Romania into
Ukraine and Hungary before flowing into the Danube in Yugoslavia.
The latest incident came while Environment Minister Romica Tomescu was in the
area with a World Bank delegation assessing ways in which the Bank might support
Romania's efforts to deal with big industrial polluters.
Tomescu and World Bank director for Romania Andrew Vorkink visited a gold
mine in the area, the site of a spill of some 100,000 cubic metres of
cyanide-laced water that killed thousands of fish in Hungary and Yugoslavia just
a month ago.
"We are particularly concerned in supporting the Romanian government to
protect three major issues -- health, environment -- and wildlife and the
livelihood and jobs of people living in this area," Vorkink told reporters
in the northwest mining town of Baia Mare.
The World Bank, he said, would work together with the European Union on
programs to prevent future ecological accidents as well as help retrain Romanian
miners laid off as the country scales down its large extractive sector.
"We are currently preparing two loans for Romania, which will be
applicable for this activity," Vorkink said, without giving details of the
projected loans.
One planned loan, he said, involved forestry and also had an environment
component. The other planned facility was "a large rural development
loan" geared towards financing the development of water supply and
infrastructure in rural areas.
Vorkink and Tomescu also met the Australian manager of the Aurul gold mine,
based in Baia Mare, which is half-owned by an Australian mining company.
After the late January spill at the Aurul mine, the environment ministry had
warned the state-owned Remin mining monopoly, which holds 45 percent in the
plant, to increase security at its tailings dams and its other mines in the
On Tuesday, the ministry said it had suspended Remin's operating licence for
the tailings dam at the Baia Borsa lead and zinc plant, which employs 2,400
SOURCE: Reuters Ltd.