Mind the waste

Published: Monday 15 August 2005

Dangerous: a breached tailings The European Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on July 13, 2005, passed a European Commission (ec) proposal for a directive to regulate the management and storage of mining waste. The proposal seeks rules to prevent water and soil pollution from storage of waste in tailings ponds, waste heaps and other dumps. The ec had presented it in June 2003. The eu adopted it with certain amendments regarding obligations about management of sites, especially after use. The amended proposal was tabled in the European parliament in 2004, when some member states objected to the 'after use' obligations. Mining waste comprises about 29 per cent of the eu 's total waste generated annually.

Mining projects will now have to provide a financial guarantee to reinforce the 'polluter's pay' principle and ensure that all obligations are met. The collapse of waste heaps and tailings dams can seriously impact human health and environment. Tailings dams have globally failed at an average of 1.7 per year in the past 30 years.

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