Mine Plan Agreed to Tackle Europe's Ticking
Clean Ups of Old Sites and Coherent Policy on
New Mines on the Cards Under
Landmark Agreement to Boost Regional Environment and Security
Cluj-Napoca/Nairobi, 13 May 2005 - An historic strategy to reduce
environmental risks of mining in Eastern Europe is to be adopted
governments attending an international conference in Romania.
The plan, agreed at the end of the conference by
ministers and officials
from around a dozen countries in the region, is likely to lead
assessments of sites whose continued operation has become a source
pollution and tension in an already volatile part of the world.
is hoped that the strategy will also trigger the financial, technical
and administrative support needed to clean up old mines, smelters
processing facilities in the region.
Higher health and environmental standards for the
operation of new mines,
alongside sound planning for their eventual closure and decommissioning
also part of the plan.
The strategy will also accelerate the establishment
and extension of early
warning systems on key rivers and tributaries in order to warn
the region of chronic pollution incidents.
Studies, carried out on behalf of the United Nations
(UNEP), have concluded that numerous old and abandoned sites
are now cause
for environmental, social and political concern.
The sites, found in the countries of Albania, Bosnia
former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro,
have been involved in the extraction and processing of metals
such as zinc,
cadmium, copper, bauxite, silver and gold.
Over a third of the more than 150 of these sites,
some of which have been
abandoned or "orphaned",
may pose a serious risk to human health, the
environment and regional stability experts have concluded.
Even some operational mines in the region can pose
a threat. In 2000,
cyanide pollution from a gold mine in Romania caused serious
damage to the
River Danube in Hungary after wastes were discharged in the Tisza
The action plan, in the form of a declaration from
Environment and Security Risks from Mining in South Eastern Europe
Tisza River Basin", aims to tackle a wide range of issues
governments, local authorities and industry.
Klaus Toepfer, UNEPâ€™s Executive Director, said: "We
now have a firm
commitment from countries in this region to tackle the real and
threat from mining and related industries. I hope this commitment
matched by support from governments outside the region, bodies
European Commission, industry and others so that we can put mining
region on a sustainable track ".
" The region is blessed with abundant reserves
of minerals. Mining, carried
out sustainably and to internationally-acceptable standards has
an important role to play in delivering economic growth and over
poverty in this part of Europe. It thus has its role in meeting
Millennium Development Goals by 2015. These cover everything from
eradicating poverty and improving human health to provision of
sufficient amounts of drinking water, food security and environmental
sustainability," he added.
" Unfortunately past practices have left a
legacy that can no longer be
ignored if we are to improve stability both within and between
hope the declaration from this important conference, so ably organized
the Government of Romania, will now finally close this less than
chapter and open a new cleaner, more prosperous and more secure
one for the
region and its people," said Mr Toepfer.
Pollution, in the form of for example old chemical
nuclear reactors and damaged and decaying factories, has become
a key issue
in states of the former Soviet Union.
Another study, released recently by UNEP under its
Environment and Security
or EnviSec Initiative, concludes that environmental degradation
undermine local and international security by "reinforcing
grievances within and between societies".
EnviSec is a collaboration between UNEP, the Organization
for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Development
(UNDP) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The same study, which focused on environmental "hot
spots" in the Southern
Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, also concluded
a declining environment can lead to unrest by "˜weakening
diminishing the authority of governments.
Meanwhile, the report emphasizes the role the environment
can play in
promoting peace. This is because many pollution problems are
communities and countries.
Working together to solve environmental problems
can build trust,
understanding and more stable political relations.
Pollution from mines and related industries has
been pin pointed by
countries in South Eastern Europe and the Tisza River Basin
as among the
biggest environment and security threats.
A new report from the EnviSec group called Mining
for Closure argues that
pollution of water courses from toxic mines wastes or "tailings"
the over riding issues countries need to address.
The report identifies the reasons why mining in
the region has become such
a big issue.
These include the lack of mine clean up and reclamation
policies in the
countries concerned until the later half of the 20th century;
enforcement of regulations even where they exist and insufficient
governments for mine clean ups in the event of a mining company
Other factors include poor management of mines;
a loss of mine records as a
result of political instability, unscheduled closures, conflict
The report, whose recommendations form the basis
of this week's
action or work plan, also charts a way forward so that countries
region can reduce the threats of cross border river pollution and
problems such as long distance air pollution.
In doing so, this will help those countries about
to accede or who are
seeking accession to the European Union to meet its environment
The recommendations include the setting up and extending
of early warning
systems for alerting national authorities and neighboring countries
chronic pollution spills and incidents.
A comprehensive inventory of pollution "hot spots"
and a prioritized
programme of clean up or closure of those sites deemed too hazardous
operate or to be left in their current state.
The establishment of independent mine closure laws
overseen by a single
Capacity-building for bodies such mine inspectorates
so they can
effectively deal with the legacy of old mines and ensure that
new ones meet
sound environmental and security standards.
Effective laws and guidelines that outline the role
and responsibilities of
governments and mine operators. These will cover areas such
spill liability and the need to set aside funds for remediation
rehabilitation of sites at the end of their economic lives.
The Mining for Closure recommendations also urge
those involved to involve
all "stakeholders" including
The report says it is important for the stability
of communities and
countries to ensure that wider social and economic issues are
account including solutions to ensure that schools, clinics and
essential service continue after a mine is closed.
Notes to Editors
The Sub-Regional Conference "Reducing Environment and Security
Mining in South Eastern Europe and the Tisza River Basin",
is being held
12-14 May 2005 at the Hotel City Plaza, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Mining for Closure: Policies, Practices and Guidelines
Mining and Closure of Mines, along with other key documents and
papers can be found at www.envsec.org
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