Baia Mare

Fact Sheet on Baia Mare

  • The spill occurred on 30 January 2000 at the Aurul S.A. gold and silver producing plant in Baia Mare (Romania). This spill released an estimated amount of 50-100 tons of cyanide, as well as heavy metals, particularly copper, into the Lapus/Somes/Tisza/Danube river catchment system.

  • The breach in the retention dam was probably caused by a combination of inherent design deficiencies in the process, unforeseen operating conditions and bad weather.

  • The loop at the plant was open at two points – the Meda pond, and the new tailings pond – which allowed unspecified and unmonitored amounts of cyanide to be routinely lost there to air and/or groundwater.

  • The company took reasonable steps t respond to the emergency. The early warning system established under the Danube River Protection Convention responded adequately to alert neighboring countries.

  • The spill entered the Tisza River which flows through Hungary and into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The pollution then flowed into the Danube River upstream of Belgrade and finally entered the Black Sea.

  • The acute trans-boundary pollution had the potential of having a severe negative impact on biodiversity, the rivers’ ecosystems, drinking water supply and socio-economic conditions of the local population.

  • Acute effects, typical for cyanide, occurred for long stretches of the river system down to the confluence of the Tisza with the Danube: phytoplankton and zooplankton were down to zero when the cyanide plume passed and fish were killed in the plume or immediately after.

  • Chronic effects due to the heavy metals could not be assessed and should be subject to future assessments. Especially the sediments have the potential to influence the aquatic ecosystem; however, negative effects may already have occurred.

  • Villages close to the accident site were provided with alternative water sources, but were allegedly not informed about the spill sufficiently early. Downstream drinking water was not affected because of the use of alternative supplies and deep wells. Consequently, immediate human health risk seems to be minimal from this spill alone, but chronic health impacts due to long-term pollution by heavy metals are possible.

  • The recent accidents in Baia Mare and Baia Borsa have dramatically increased public awareness of the environmental and safety hazards of the mining industry.