неделя, 17 октомври 2010 г.

Demonstration of the weaknesses in the European mining legislation

14 October 2010

Dear Environmental Ministers of the European Union,

“Never again!”, promised ex-EU Commissioner for the Environmen Margot Wallström after the Baia Mare tailings dam failure in Romania ten years ago. Yet four years on from passing the EU mining waste directive this is exactly what we have been witnessing at Kolontar, where a tailings dam failure at a bauxite plant has destroyed human life, the environment and so much more.

The Kolontar accident is a tragic demonstration of the weaknesses in the European mining legislation and the lack of mechanisms to protect our shared rivers network and the communities living in the shadow of bid mining and metalurgical operations.

We would like to make sure that this latest tailings dam failure will indeed be the last of its kind and we refuse to accept that the caustic sludge that has been causing burns to locals and death to fish is not considered hazardous waste according to EU standards. Media reported pH levels at Kolontar as high as 13; by comparison Ammonia is 12 and Bleach is 13. The legislative framework that regulates these industrial sites is EU-wide legislation.

Unfortunately, Kolontar is not an isolated case – it is only the most tragic one, while there are mining operations in Europe that slowly devastate the environment and harm human health. There are dozens of hot spots in the European Union and a handful of new investment proposals that put people and the environment at risk of significant pollution and accidents. It was for these reasons that EU citizens requested their MEPs to support European Parliament resolution of May 5th 2010 (P7_TA (2010)0145) calling for a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union by 2011, which was passed with a momentous majority of 488 votes

We are therefore urging you to request from the European Commission to first of all launch a public revision of the EU mining waste directive. It should include the lessons learnt from the Kolontar tailings dam failure and it should review the list of substances that are currently not considered hazardous.1 Their potential to react and/or to bio-accumulate must also be included.

Second, in order to prevent a repeat of the Kolontar accident all mining hot spots within the EU must be urgently listed, assessed and made public, in order to ensure that each facility complies with the current EU legislation i.e. insurance, accident & closure plans etc., or that there is a sound plan to get the hot spot in compliance within the agreed transition period.

Third, the EU should create a mechanism that will assess all project permits and ensure compliance with the EU law, independently of national authorities. The European Commission can no longer stand by like Pontius Pilate and watch how new mining hotspots are created and exacerbated. It should not wait for civil society organisations to file infringement complaints, but instead should proactively interfere, especially in cases when there are risks of negative trans-boundary impacts.

Last but not least we are urging you to undertake an urgent legislative measures to insure the definitive protection of the fundamental right of healthy and clean environment through the adoption of a cyanide ban until the end of 2011 implementing the resolution of the elected representatives of the European citizens.

The high population density in Europe, the hydro-geological conditions and the increased risks of flooding caused by climate change are necessitating the urgent measures that the European Commission should undertake. The present disaster in Hungary only confirms the inadequacy of the existing European standards and mechanisms for preventing major mining facility failures with immense negative consequences for European citizens, biodiversity, water resources and infrastructure.

We remain deeply concerned and reiterate our demands that the European Commission should act in the most responsible and transparent manner in order to prevent the negative impacts of mining operations.

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