20/10/2017 13863 views

20 October 2017 – Romanian authorities face a new accidental spill at a tailings dam near Baia Mare. The severity of this spill is however very little communicated to the public, in the context of the Government preparing a new Mining Law, just as controversial as the one in 2013 [1][2].

On 17 October 2017, following a breakdown of a reverse circulation well, water and tailings were uncontrolledly discharged from the tailings dam at Bozânta. The tailings facility belongs to the state company REMIN SA. The first official information from authorities came only two days later and there still are many outstanding questions.

The failure occurred during the night of 16 to 17 October. The company’s maintenance and supervision staff noticed an increased discharged water flow in the morning. The press release of Maramureș Prefecture made no official reference to the quantity of tailings discharged [3].

“We learned from the discussions with authorities that the discharge cone size was 120 m and it was estimated that the flow reached approximately 100 liters/second. The volume of water and tailings discharged exceeded the upsetting channels’ capacity, so the spill reached a land held by Remin, then it flew to Bozânta brook and further to Lăpuș and Someș rivers. The spill lasted more than 12 hours and, according to the official press release, “the water and tailings spill was stopped during the night of 17 October.” Based on our calculations, the volume discharged was in the order of thousands cubic meters”, said Roxana Pencea Brădățan from the Mining Watch Romania network.

The tailings in the tailings dam at Bozânta contains high concentrations of heavy metals, such as manganese, copper and iron. The authorities have not made any announcement yet on the toxic substances released or the impact upon the environment and communities.

They have also not mentioned anything about any potential sanctions applied to the mining company.

The mining operations in Maramureş left behind very serious environmental issues, which can any time generate environmental accidents at the 17 tailings dams and about 300 mining waste dumps. According to older estimates, more than 91 million Euros are necessary for the environmental cleaning of the tailings dams in Maramureş. Until 2013 only 15% of the necessary funds had been allocated.

***

Notes:

[1] The special law for Roșia Montană (L475/2013) and the draft bill for amending and completing the Mining Law no. 85/2003 (PL-x no. 573/2013)

[2] Romanian Government resumes the national expropriation law, http://miningwatch.ro/guvernul-romaniei-reia-legea-expropierii-nationale/

[3] Press release from Maramureș Prefecture: http://miningwatch.ro/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Comunicat-Prefectura-MM-Iaz-Bozanta-Remin.doc

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