Cyanide is widely used to help extract pure gold from ore and is favoured for its simplicity.

It is a popular method for low-grade gold and silver ore processing but there are safer alternatives.

Like most industrial chemical processes, there are potential environmental hazards presented with this extraction method in addition to the high toxicity presented by the cyanide itself.

This was highlighted by a major environmental disaster in Romania in 2000, when a dam at a goldmine reprocessing facility released approximately 100,000 m³ of wastewater contaminated with heavy metal sludge and up to 120 tons of cyanide into the rivers of Tisza.

Now NGOs led by Central & Eastern European Bankwatch are calling on the EBRD to halt funding for those mining operations still using this process.

Daniel Popov, of the Centre for Environmental Information and Education in Sofia and Bankwatch national co-ordinator said: “We presented the EBRD’s board over the weekend with a petition to ban cyanide from its portfolio and hopefully the bank will pick up on the European Parliament’s recent strong resolution that insists on a total ban on cyanide mining technologies in the EU before the end of 2011.

“For the sake of public safety and public health, and in light of the unsatisfactory plans that keep coming from gold mining firms, the EBRD should shut off its vital funding sources to cyanide-related activities and save the money for much more sustainable project gold, such as energy efficiency and renewables.”

Earlier this month, Members of the European Parliament called on the European Commission to “initiate a complete ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union before the end of 2011, since this is the only safe way to protect our water resources and ecosystems against cyanide pollution from mining activities”.

Sam Bond

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