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Wednesday, 5 May 2010 - Brussels
Ban on use of cyanide mining technologies

European Parliament resolution of 5 May 2010 on a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to the precautionary principle, as set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and in the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992,

–   having regard to the environmental objectives of 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 (‘Water Framework Directive’),

–   having regard to Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the management of waste from extractive industries, which provides for the use of cyanide in mining, at the same time laying down maximum permissible cyanide levels,

–   having regard to Directive 2003/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2003 amending Council Directive 96/82/EC (Seveso II) on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances, which states that ‘[…] certain storage and processing activities in mining [...] have potential to produce very serious consequences’,

–   having regard to Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability, under which Member States may allow operators not to bear the costs of environmental damage if certain conditions can be shown to have been met,

–   having regard to the 18-month programme of the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies and its priorities on water policy and biodiversity,

–   having regard to the measures taken by the Czech Republic concerning a general ban on cyanide technologies, through the amendment of Mining Act No 44/1988 in 2000, to the amendment of Hungarian Mining Act No 48/1993 in 2009, introducing a ban on cyanide-based mining technologies on the territory of Hungary, and to the German decree passed in 2002 prohibiting cyanide-leach mining,

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, inviting the world to take action to safeguard the diversity of life on earth,

B.   whereas cyanide is a highly toxic chemical used in the gold-mining industry, one which qualifies as a main pollutant under Annex VIII to the Water Framework Directive and which can have a catastrophic and irreversible impact on human health and the environment, and thus on biodiversity,

C.   whereas in their Joint Position on sustainable mining issued at their 14th Meeting on 25 May 2007 in Prague (Czech Republic) the Environment Ministers of the Visegrad Group of Countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) expressed their concerns about the hazardous technologies used and planned for mining activities at various sites in the region, entailing considerable environmental hazards with potential transboundary consequences,

D.   whereas, in the framework of the Sofia Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River, the Parties agreed that, besides its status as a priority hazardous substance under the Water Framework Directive, cyanide qualifies as a relevant hazardous substance,

E.   whereas over the past 25 years more than 30 major accidents involving cyanide spills have occurred worldwide, the worst taking place 10 years ago, when more than 100 000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water were released from a gold-mine reservoir into the Tisza-Danube River system and caused the largest ecological disaster in the history of central Europe at that time, and whereas there is no real guarantee that such accidents will not occur again, especially taking into account the increasing incidence of extreme weather conditions, inter alia heavy and frequent precipitation events, as projected by the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

F.   whereas several EU Member States are still considering new projects for large-scale open-cast gold mines using cyanide technologies in densely inhabited areas, projects which pose further potential threats to human health and the environment,

G.   whereas under the Water Framework Directive Member States are obliged to achieve and preserve the ‘good status’ of water resources and to prevent their pollution with hazardous substances; whereas, however, that good status could also depend on water quality in a river basin located in neighbouring countries which use cyanide mining technologies,

H.   whereas the cross-border effects of accidents involving cyanide, particularly with regard to contamination of large river basins and groundwater supplies, emphasises the need for an EU approach to the serious environmental threat posed by cyanide mining,

I.   whereas prudential rules and proper financial guarantees are still lacking, and whereas the implementation of the existing legislation on cyanide mining also depends on the skills of the executive powers of each Member State, so that it is only a matter of time until human negligence leads to an accident,

J.   whereas the Mining Waste Directive has not been fully implemented in some Member States,

K.   whereas cyanide mining provides few jobs, and only for a period of eight-16 years, whilst it runs the risk of causing enormous cross-border ecological damage the cost of which is usually not met by the responsible operating companies, which generally disappear or go bankrupt, but by the state, i.e. by taxpayers,

L.   whereas operating companies do not have long-term insurance that would cover the costs incurred in the event of a future accident or malfunction,

M.   whereas one tonne of low-grade ore must be extracted in order to produce two grams of gold, leaving enormous amounts of mining waste on the sites, whilst 25-50% of the gold ultimately remains in the waste stockpile; whereas, in addition, large-scale cyanide mining projects use several million kilograms of sodium cyanide per year, the transportation and storage of which itself offers the potential for catastrophic consequences in the event of a failure,

N.   whereas alternatives to cyanide mining which could replace cyanide-based technologies do exist,

O.   whereas strong public protests are being organised against ongoing cyanide mining projects across Europe, involving not only individual citizens, local communities and NGOs, but also state organisations, governments and politicians,

1.  Considers that compliance with the EU's objectives under the Water Framework Directive, namely to achieve good chemical status for water resources and to protect water resources and biological diversity, can be achieved only by banning cyanide mining technology;

2.  Calls on the Commission to propose a complete ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union before the end of 2011, since this is the only safe way to protect our water resources and ecosystems against cyanide pollution from mining activities, and to carry out an ordinary impact assessment at the same time;

3.  Takes note of the relevant initiatives within the EU and the UN systems and strongly encourages the development and application of safer – in particular cyanide-free – mining alternatives;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States not to support, either directly or indirectly, any mining projects in the EU that involve cyanide technology until the general ban is applicable, nor to support any such projects in third countries;

5.  Calls on the Commission to encourage industrial reconversion of the areas where cyanide mining was banned, through appropriate financial support for alternative green industries, renewable energy and tourism;

6.  Calls on the Commission to propose an amendment to existing legislation on the management of waste from the extractive industries requiring that every operating company should take out insurance to cover compensation for damage and all remedial costs incurred in restoring a site to its original ecological and chemical status in the event of an accident or malfunction;

7.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

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