Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is not in a position to comment on the details of the decision taken by the Bulgarian authorities. Compliance with the rules, including the decision on the localization of the installations is a matter for the competent Bulgarian authorities.
As a general remark, the appropriate application at national level of the Directive 2006/21/EC on the management of extractive waste requires that Bulgaria ensures that extractive waste is managed without endangering human health and without using processes or methods which could harm the environment, and in particular without risk to water, air, soil and fauna and flora, without causing a nuisance through noise or odours and without adversely affecting the landscape or places of special interest. Bulgaria should therefore ensure that the operators engaged in the activity of extraction of gold in Ada Tepe take all necessary measures to prevent or reduce as far as possible any negative effects, actual or potential, on the environment or on human health. More specifically, Directive 2006/21/EC sets notably clear and strict limit values in Article 13(6) for cyanide emissions, but also includes several requirements aiming at limiting the potential impact on public health and the environment of mining activities.
As regards the public consultations, at this stage the Commission does not have sufficient information to ascertain compliance with Directive 2006/21/EC and notably Article 8 thereof. Therefore, the Commission has requested additional information from the competent Bulgarian authorities regarding applicability and compliance with Directive 2006/21/EC.
On the basis of the information provided, the Commission will assess whether there might be a possible breach of the European legislation and should this be the case, it will take the necessary measures under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in order to ensure that the EU legislation is fully respected.
With regard to the application of the Habitats Directive, the project should be subject to an appropriate assessment under Article 6(3) of the directive for its implications on the Natura 2000 sites affected. To the Commission's knowledge such an assessment is currently underway.
Bulgaria has respected its obligations related to the public consultation of the draft Maritza River sub-basin management plan pursuant to Article 14 of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC. Moreover an overview of significant water management issues identified in Maritza river sub-basin was produced, consulted with the interested party and provided to the Commission. According to this overview, Bulgaria recognises that mining activity (including that from Krumovgrad areas) is one of the greatest industrial sources of pollution for Maritza River sub-basin. Furthermore, the water bodies downstream of Ada Tepe gold mine are declared at risk of failing to achieve the good staus by 2015.
However, based on the information available, it is not possible to identify whether cyanide is the reason for failing the environmental objectives. In any case, the Bulgarian authorities have identified a series of measures to allow them to reach the good status and these are going to be reported as part of the river basin management plan to be transmitted to the Commission by March 2010. Against these deadlines, the situation described by the Honourable Member does not currently constitute a breach of the Water Framework Directive.
-  Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the management of waste from extractive industries and amending Directive 2004/35/EC, OJ L 102, 11.4.2006.
-  Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (as amended), OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
-  Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000.