Commission to improve safety of mines

In response to recent mining accidents, the European Commission has adopted a Communication on the safe operation of mining activities.

Safe operation of mining activities: a follow-up to recent mining accidents – such as in Baia Mare, Romania (see related story), and Aznalcollar in Spain (see related story), describes the steps that the Commission envisages it will take following recent mining accidents, which highlighted the need for a more focused environmental policy.

“The Baia Mare and Donana accidents made it clear that we need to adapt or further tighten European legislation rapidly to prevent such accidents from happening again. With this Communication, the Commission wishes to focus and accelerate this work by identifying priority areas for action to improve the safety of mines. It will serve as a contribution to the ongoing work of the Baia Mare Task Force.”

The Communication sets out three priority actions envisaged to improve the safety of mines:

  • amendment of the Seveso II Directive to include mineral processing of ores and tailings ponds or dams, obliging operators to put safety management systems in place;
  • an initiative on the management of mining waste which will take into account the results of a study launched by the Commission on the existing legislation and practices concerning the management of waste from the extractive industry;
  • a Best Available Techniques (BAT) reference document under the IPPC Directive to aid the reduction of everyday pollution and prevent or mitigate accidents in the on-ferrous metals mining sector.

According to the Commission, the initiatives will be prepared in close co-operation with the candidate countries. The Communication and the priority actions which it identifies will also be important for the on-going work of the Baia Mare Task Force, set up to examine the causes and consequences of the cyanide spill into the Danube. The Task Force is designed ton propose remedial actions and identify other high risk installations in the area to avoid similar accidents in the future.

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