неделя, 18 юли 2010 г.

Bulgarian cyanide cases

Can the existing EU legislation, eg. the Mining Waste Directive, prevent a future cyanide spill?
One of the main arguments pointed from the European Commission and several MEPs during the decision preceding the voting of the Cyanide Ban Resolution is that such a ban is not necessary since the current European legislation (eg. the Mining Waste Directive and EIA Directive) insures the proper assessment of the risks and provision of mitigation measures for protection of the environment.
Unfortunately, the experience from Bulgaria shows that the permitting procedures on investment proposals suffer from a number of shortcomings. (There are many other cases in Romania and Greece, but we have most detaled info from Bulgaria).
In Bulgaria, three investment proposals were granted permits from the Ministry of Environment in 2008-2009 – those of Chelopech Mining, Gorubso-Kurdjali and KCM Plovdiv.

Chelopech Mining case

In the former case the environmental permit for the introduction of cyanide leaching has been canceled on 15th of April 2010 by the final decision of the Supreme Administrative Court with the following arguments:
The information at the EIA report was old (from 2005) and did not properly consider the impact of cyanide leaching installation and the tailings dam on the heavily polluted surroundings (specified as an “environmental hot spot”).
The Ministry of Environment and Waters incorrectly specified that the public hearings should be held only in the two closest villages with a total population of 3000 inhabitants, while the project would affect a much larger territory downstream. Therefore the public hearings on the EIA report excluded most of the potentially affected communities and violated their right to participate in the decision making.
The cyanide leaching technology proposed by the investor cannot be classified as Best Available Technique (BAT). The only cyanide leaching installation for ore with a comparably high Arsenic concentration as in Chelopech has been built as an experimental facility by Phelps Dodge in Arisona, USA, with a capacity significantly smaller than that in Chelopech.

Apart from the Court decision the Cyanide-free Bulgaria Coalition identified other serious gaps as:
the lack of a Transportation plan for the cyanide, which needed to be consulted with communities en route, in order to ensure consent and adequate reactions and measures in cases of accidents;
both the cyanide leaching installation and the tailings dam had to be located very closely to inhabited areas infringing the Bulgarian Regulation № 7 of the Ministry of Health for hygienic zones between industrial facilities and inhabited areas. The statement of agreement from the Ministry of Health was signed by civil servants in clear conflict of interest, since some of them also prepared for the investor a risk assessment study justifying the investment proposal.

Gorubso-Kurdjali Case
The project in Kurdjali has been granted with permit from the Ministry of Environment with similar deficiencies, eg. a) the town of Kurdjali is identified as an “environmental hot spot”and b) distance between the facility and the hygienic zones have been reduced by the responsible institution, and c) the Plan for the Transportation of cyanide is not part of the EIA Report. Additionally:
The company is planning to use their old tailings dam with the argument that cyanide waste from lead production is already managed there. However, presently this tailings dam fails to comply with the requirements of both the EU Mining Waste Directive and the Bulgarian Underground Resources Act.
The cyanide leaching facility was build illegally two years before the permit. In 2009 the Administrative Court issued a decision that the facility should be dismantled. Instead to execute the Court decision, the company has received a permit with listed requirements to be fulfilled during the construction stage for an already constructed facility!

KCM Plovdiv Case

The private company is a leading smelter for non-ferrous metals treatment at the Balkans. In 2008 KCM was granted an EIA permit for a cyanide leaching facility for extraction of gold. A check on 10th May 2010 from the Regional Agency for Construction Control showed that the cyanide facility is already operating at testing regime and industrial adjustments. After receiving the necessary information from the Ministry of Environment and Waters we have established that the facility does not have an IPPC permit, although one of the conditions of the EIA decision was that the operator must submit an application for it. We would like to remind you that according to the EU legislation the IPPC permit is the one which proves that any facility fulfills the environmental standards and obligatory precondition for the construction permits.
The protocol of the single public hearing conducted at Kuklen on 10.07.2008 shows that from 30 people presented 13 are from KCM and only 6 are citizens of Kuklen, there are not presented citizens from Assenovgrad or Plovdiv which suffers from the smelter legacy. We consider this largely below the necessary public consultations standards set at the European legislation and the Policies of the EBRD.
Last but not least, neither of the three proposals was consulted with institutional stakeholders and communities living downstream along the Maritsa (Evros) River in Greece and Turkey, a requirements imposed by the Espoo Convention on EIA in trans-boundary context.
In conclusion, an EU ban on cyanide leaching of gold does not aim stopping of gold mining operations across the European Community. Instead it aims to give incentives to mining companies to investigate and invest into safer and more environmentally friendly technologies, applying the precautionary principle stated at the Art. 174 (2) of the Treaty of the EC and showing in practice social and environmental responsibility.

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