Lăpuș River polluted: a new environmental accident at an old mine in Maramureș

Baiut accident ecologic
29/03/2018 8390 views

On 27 March around 3:30 am a strong noise preceded the mine water flood at the former Băiuț mine. People living in Băiuț commune in Maramures got alerted, as they realized immediately that the dam at the entrance of the old Breiner gallery had breached. In just a few minutes the intensely red coloured water ran out of the deep gallery and flooded wide areas nearby. Water then flew to river Lăpuș, an affluent of Someș River, washing the county road along 400 m.

Although no mine has been operational in Maramureş for more than ten years, large amounts of money were spent each year for the closure, safeguarding and environmental cleaning. This money has been spent on paper but the reality on site is sad: such discharges with disastrous consequences occur periodically.

The pollution generated by the acid waters from Băiuț, loaded with heavy metals, severely affected Lăpuș River fauna. The flood left behind dead fish, as shown in the pictures. Nevertheless Apele Române (Romanian Water Agency) declared nonchalantly that no fish mortality has been registered.

Lăpuș River crosses the nature reserve Cheile Lăpușului (Lăpuș Gorges) in its way to Someș River. At the beginning of 2017 beaver had reappeared here after more than 150 years. Specialists were delighted at that time about the return of these small mammals, brought back by the unpolluted waters in the area. After the flood on Tuesday, the president of the recreational fishing association “Cheile Lăpușului”, Viorel Coroian, declared that “following this pollution flood, the fish fauna is hundred percent destroyed”.

Lăpuș River is 120 km long until it flows into Someș River, being the longest water course in Maramureș. 25 km of the river run across the Natura 2000 site, a natural reserve of European interest.

The Breiner mining perimeter, administered by the former company Remin S.A. Baia Mare, was approved for closure by the Government Decision HG 898/2002. The closure and cleaning works were undertaken by the above mentioned mining operator, with the technical support provided by Mons Medius S.R.L. Baia Mare and Conversmin S.A. The works performed were accepted in 2006, and the warranty period of the works expired in 2008. According to Conversmin statements, “a potential cause of the large water accumulation behind the dam is the underground inflow of surface water from snow melting, as the mining perimeter has many large subsidence areas”.

This ecological accident is the second produced at an old mine gallery this year. On 8 January 2018, again in Maramureș, acid waters polluted Săsar River. At that time, just as now, the regional authorities did nothing but merely acknowledged the disaster. No measures have been taken to stop these phenomena.

It is very relevant in this line to look at the response received by member of the parliament Vlad Duruș to an interpellation formulated in May 2017 to the Ministry of Environment. This response indicates the source of the frequent pollution of Săsar River: the insufficiently treated or untreated mine water from the old mining operations of Remin. That is, from Baia Sprie and Baia Mare mines. Remin holds 54 such old mining deposits (gold, silver, copper, manganese, iron), which were put in conservation in 2008. The company is in insolvency now, being unable to undertake environmental restoration programmes at the old mines; the achievement of any measures depends now on the funds assigned by the Ministry of Economy.

Raspuns MM Deputat Vlad Durus (Text)

In these circumstances, Apele Române, the institution in charge of managing water bodies in our country, stays again indifferent. The same happened with the ecological accident in January. Although the Ministry of Environment confirmed that “polluting substances that get into Săsar River are among the priority hazardous substances such as heavy metals”, the statements of Someș-Tisa Water Basin Administration were very different. The Chief Engineer of this institution, Stelian Ivaşcu, said there was no pollution. “We speak about an event related to quality. The colour is given by the slurry. This originates from the collapse of the ceiling of a mine gallery in the Baia-Sprie corridor, and water carried the slurry downstream”, he explained for InfoMM.ro.

Foto credit: axanews.ro