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EU environment chief sees new mining waste rules

EU environment chief sees new mining waste rules
BRUSSELS - The head of European Union environment policy said on Friday she was likely to propose stricter safety rules for metals mines, based on a report on a major cyanide spill in Romania earlier this year. Margot Wallstrom, the EUs environment commissioner, welcomed a report on the incident by an EU-led task force which said stricter safety rules were necessary to prevent similar environmental disasters in the future. The task force was set up in March to suggest ways of improving the rules covering European mining waste by drawing lessons from the Baia Mare incident, which devastated long tracts of the Tisza and Danube rivers with cyanide pollution. The groups report, issued on Friday, made detailed recommendations on rules for the construction and running of metal mines. "With the support of the Baia Mare Task Force report I am encouraged to move ahead with our proposals," Wallstrom said, referring to measures the Commission put forward in October. The Commission will take the task forces recommendations into account in proposing a new law on waste management next year, she said. The Commission will also propose amendments to an existing law aimed at preventing industrial accidents involving dangerous substances - the so-called Seveso II directive of 1996 - to cover "tailings" ponds and dams used to store highly polluted water from mining activities. Wallstrom said she hoped EU member states would support these plans - though they had not always done so in the past. "So far the member states have been very reluctant to have mining activities regulated at community level, but I think this will change, I think they are maybe motivated in another way now following these accidents", she said. The task force report recommended EU legislation be changed to ban the use of "tailings ponds" to store cyanide and other dangerous substances. Such substances should have to be removed before tailings are deposited in the tailings pond, it said. All new plants would also have to have a system of water discharge to prevent contaminated water overflowing into rivers. The environmentalist group WWF, which was also represented on the task force, said: "We expect strong EU and accession country initiatives to tackle these toxic pollution threats. These disasters are completely preventable". Romania is one of the dozen countries that have applied to join the 15-nation European Union. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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