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EU Assembly Rejects Tougher Rules for Old Mining Waste

EU Assembly Rejects Tougher Rules for Old Mining Waste
STRASBOURG - The European Parliament rejected a bid to force EU states to clean up old mining sites on Tuesday but said mining firms should set aside more money to pay for pollution in new quarries.

The parliament voted against imposing deadlines on EU states to remove pollution from old and abandoned mining sites, a big issue in the new EU states in central and eastern Europe.

EU authorities will need to keep a list of such sites.

Swedish far-left deputy Jonas Sjoestedt, who guided the proposal through parliament, said he was disappointed that the tougher rules failed to gain support.

"It means that the parliament focuses more and more on industrial concerns," he said in a statement.

But the Swedish deputy said the first pan-EU rules on mining waste would still raise the environmental standards of lax member states in the 25-nation bloc.

Mining firms will have to obtain a permit to operate a waste facility in Europe and prepare waste management plans.

The bill seeks to avoid a repeat of the Baia Mare gold mine disaster in 2000, when waste from a mine in Romania devastated a network of rivers, and a 1998 spill at a lead and zinc mine in Spain which threatened its biggest wildlife reserve.

The assembly voted to keep opt-outs agreed by EU governments which set looser rules for certain types of non-hazardous waste.

But EU deputies endorsed tougher financial penalties for new waste sites.

If a mining firm causes pollution, it will have to clean up the site and surrounding area. EU governments wanted the land outside the waste facility to be excluded.

The European Commission in Brussels will have the final word in vetting the financial guarantees supplied by mining firms instead of EU states under the parliament plan.

EU governments, the European Parliament and the EU executive Commission will meet to finalise the legislation.

Extractive industries produce more than 400 million tonnes of waste every year, making up nearly 30 percent of all waste generated in the EU on an annual basis, according to the Commission.

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