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Hungary objects to Romanian cyanide-extraction gold mine

Hungary objects to mining using cyanide leaching technology, state secretary for the environment Zoltán Illés wrote in a letter to his Romanian counterpart László Borbély, setting out the government's position on a planned precious metals mine in Rosia Montana.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Environment Ministry said Illés had drawn the Romanian minister's attention to Hungary's standpoint on the matter, namely that cyanide leaching technology is unacceptable, and a sludge container to be deployed is potentially dangerous. Based on modeling, experts have concluded a risk would be present of contaminated material reaching across the border to Hungary, it said.

Due to the potential for cross-border contamination, Romania was obliged to consult surrounding countries about their standpoint in the framework of the so-called Espoo agreement, it added.

In February, Hungary received a Romanian study of more than 1,000 pages on the Rosia Montana mine, and the official standpoint of the Hungarian government was formed after studying that document, the ministry said.

The Canadian-Romanian Rosia Montana Gold Corporation plans to extract 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver at the site, the statement noted. This would permanently change the landscape as well as cause the accumulation of 275m tons of compounds containing cyanide into an existing and a new container, it added. Experts have concluded that in the event of an accident, nearby streams running into the Maros and Tisza rivers would be polluted with the toxic compounds.

The ministry's statement added that Hungarian MEP János Áder had initiated a position, adopted by the European Parliament in January 2010 with a large majority, calling on the Commission to start proceedings to completely ban mining using cyanide-extraction technology in the European Union. The Commission decided not to act on the EP initiative, saying there was no current alternative to the cyanide technology.