EU vote means stricter rules for polluting mines

New rules will force polluting mines in Europe to tidy up their act but those who feared they would have to remove years of accumulated waste are off the hook.

In a vote on Monday, September 5 MEPs passed legislation which will impose pan-European standards for safe storage and disposal of mining waste.

Jonas Sjostedt of the green-leaning Swedish Left Party guided the proposals through parliament and told edie he was happy with the overall result, but disappointed some of his suggested ammendments which would have forced mining outfits to clear up historic waste had been voted down.

“Today’s vote means higher standards for those European countries that have weak regulations,” said Sjöstedt on Monday.

At the same time conservatives and some other members voted against several amendments that would have sharpened the legislation even further, he said.

Plans to force the remediation of contaminated sites and remove existing waste have fallen by the wayside and instead companies must simply make an inventory of waste from past operations.

“This is a sign that the European Parliament is becoming more conservative when it comes to environmental issues,” said Sjöstedt.

“It means that the parliament focuses more and more on industrial concerns.”

Plaid Cymru’s Jill Evans MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, has also been backing the proposals.

“These new rules seek to make sure that waste from mining and other extractive industries is disposed of safely and properly in Europe,” she said in a statement prepared for edie. “The consequences of not doing so can be appalling – as we saw in Wales in 1966 with the terrible Aberfan disaster.

“When MEP’s were considering the new rules, Aberfan was an example that was raised specifically to highlight the potential dangers of not disposing of mining waste safely.

As a Welsh MEP this meant a lot to me – almost forty years later the Aberfan disaster is still remembered and is still helping highlight the potentially disastrous consequences of not disposing properly of mining waste.

“If other parts of Europe can learn from what happened here then this is surely a good thing.”

Romanian and Spanish mining disasters in more recent years where masses of toxic waste had polluted the environment were also used as case studies in the debate.

The ammended legislation will now go back for a conciliation procedure between the parliament and coucnil of European ministers.

Once it has been adopted by members it will become the first pan-European legislation on mining waste, an area previously left to individual states to rule on.

By Sam Bond

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