European mining waste controls finalised

New EU mining waste controls have been provisionally finalised in conciliation talks between the European parliament and council of ministers. The deal, which requires formal approval by both sides, clears the way for the law to enter into force.

Parliament's rapporteur on the dossier Jonas Sjöstedt expressed pleasure at the result in a statement. Johannes Drielsma of European mining industry association Euromines told Environment Daily the sector was "very pleased" that the two sides had "adopted a directive that is appropriate to our needs".

  • Scope of financial guarantees: Parliament called for a requirement for operators to provide financial guarantees to apply to any land "directly affected" by a mine waste site. In the case of a spillage into a river system this could have meant land hundreds of miles away.

    The compromise ties the financial guarantee to an operators' permit. This links it closely to actual mine waste sites, while allowing for a wider geographical scope if this is specified in a permit. For the industry it means greater certainty over potential financial liabilities.

  • Transitional provisions: The issue was at what stage in the life of a facility operators should no longer be bound by the directive. Following closure of a waste facility it was agreed that operators should still be bound by provisions on major accident hazards, cyanide pollution and water status deterioration. But they will be exempted from requirements for waste management plans, permits and financial guarantees.

  • Extractive voids: Parliament wanted surface or underground voids left behind after mining included in the directive. The compromise struck applies the rules only to voids containing mining waste.

  • Water status deterioration: The council acceded to parliamentary demands to make it clearer that mine waste sites are point sources under the EU water framework directive.

  • Romania and Bulgaria: The two governments agreed to make a political declaration that they will not seek derogations to apply the directive later than other countries. The two states are due to join the EU in 2007. The 2000 Baia Mare cyanide spill that triggered the directive happened in Romania.

    Republished with permission of Environment Daily.

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