Baia Mare Cyanide Spill Facts

Baia Mare Cyanide Spill Facts
The Baia Mare Cyanide Spill was a cyanide leak that occurred on January 30th, 2000 near Baia, Romania. The cyanide leaked into the Somes River after a dam burst and eventually reached Tisza and the Danube, resulting in the deaths of large numbers of fish. It is considered to be the worst manmade environmental disaster in Europe since the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster in 1986. The company responsible for the spill was Aurul - a company formed by the Romanian government and Esmeralda Exploration of Australia. It is estimated that 3,500,000 cubic feet of water was contaminated by the cyanide leak and reached farmland and the Somes River. The company blamed too much snow on the dam failing.
Interesting Baia Mare Cyanide Spill Facts:
Following the Baia Mare cyanide spill the amount of cyanide in the Somes River was more than 700 times the levels permitted.
More than 2.5 million people in Hungary had their drinking water contaminated by cyanide.
Wildlife was severely impacted by the Baia Mare cyanide leak. All living things along the Tisza were killed. In Serbia 200 tons of fish in the rivers were killed and 80% of all aquatic life was destroyed.
The cyanide leak affected at least 62 fish species. 20 of the fish species were protected species.
The Romanian government, which was one of the two founders of Aurul, claimed that cold weather had killed the fish and that they were therefore not in the wrong.
Fish killed by the cyanide leak in Hungary were gathered up by volunteers to help reduce the impact and death toll on other species that might consume the fish or meet with contaminated remains.
In 2002 the fishing industry in Hungary claimed that their fishing catch was still only 20% of their original levels, prior to the Baia Mare cyanide spill.
Cyanide is often used for extracting gold from sources that contain only minute amounts of gold. It would otherwise be uneconomical to extract gold from these sources.
When fish are exposed to cyanide they have reduced swimming ability, compromised reproduction, respiration difficulties, abnormal growth patterns, and many other symptoms, such as death when in high enough amounts. Algae are able to tolerate higher levels of cyanide than fish are able to.
When birds are exposed to cyanide they have symptoms such as salivating, eye blinking, and panting, as well as lethargy. These symptoms can occur within minutes and death occurs usually in 30 minutes or less.
When mammals are exposed to cyanide they exhibit symptoms quickly, such as muscle tremors, excitability, uncontrollable urination and defecation, as well as trouble breathing, gasping for air, and convulsions. Death is fairly quick.
The Romanian environmental authorities had warned Aurul that there were potential problems with the dam in 1999 after former employees reported construction of the dam was poorly done and mistakes had been made.
In 1999 in a nearby village called Zazar five cows died because of cyanide contaminated water from the Baia Mare mine owned by Aurul. The company merely paid for the five cows.
Environmental groups are attempting to have cyanide heap-leaching banned as a method to mine for gold.

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