Flash Mob Gathered In Romanian Capital To Mark Ten Years Since Baia Mare Cyanide Spill

A flash mob of around 30 youths assembled Monday before the Romanian Environment Ministry in Bucharest, to mark ten years since the cyanide and heavy metals spill in Baia Mare, northern Romania, an incident sometimes called “the second Chernobyl.”

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The youths carried black banners with messages including "Ten years later, cyanide still kills," "1,240 tons of dead fish," "Did they die in vain?" and "50 hectares of contaminated land;" they laid a coffin containing a fish on the ministry's steps and lit candles around it.

"We want to warn about the potential disaster which can occur through the use of cyanide. This is a message to all who have forgotten," said one of the participants.

Mircea Toma, director of press monitoring agency Active Watch, took part in the event and said such incidents must not be forgotten, because the risk of contamination will exist as long as cyanide is used to extract gold.

Environment Minister Laszlo Borbely joined the youths in keeping a moment of silence and thanked them for commemorating ten years since the accident. He said the ministry will take steps this year to inform about the damage caused to the area "again and again." The minister also said he would have liked more people to mark the incident and protest against the fact that those responsible have not been brought to justice.

On the night of January 30, 2000, a dam holding contaminated waters, owned by Romanian-Australian firm "Aurul" Baia Mare, burst, spilling 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water over farmland and then into the Somes river. The polluted waters eventually reached the Tisza and then the Danube, killing large quantities of fish in Hungary and Yugoslavia.

The Romanian state owned around half of "Aurul," and the majority capital was owned by Australian company Esmeralda Ltd.

Hungary demanded USD100 million as reparations for the damage caused by the accident.

On January 27, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights found Romania guilty of failing to properly assess the risks of using cyanide in the Baia Mare mine. The case was brought to the Court by two Romanians living near the mine, who argued their lives were endangered by the mining activity.

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