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The European Commission rejected a European Parliament resolution requesting to ban cyanide mining technologies and not to support, either directly or indirectly, any mining projects that involve cyanide technology.
The call by the members of the European Parliament was clear: a "total ban" in the 27 member states due to the environmental and health risks of cyanide.
"Following indepth analysis, the Commission considers that a general ban of cyanide in mining activities is not justified from environmental and health points of view", said Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, according to Mining Press.
Cyanide in mining is used to separate metals (gold and silver, among others) from the rock. This is called "leaching", the most common method in large-scale mining, and requires large amounts of water, which is highly contaminated after the process.
In addition to the environmental consequences, cyanide is a highly toxic chemical and exposure to low doses for a long period of time can cause heart, respiratory, neurological, gastrointestinal, endocrinological and reproductive disorders.
The European Commission stated that it will closely follow the technological developments of the sector to ensure that the "best available techniques" are applied in practice.
This decision rejects the warnings by the European Parliament which had stated that the possibility of an accident was only a matter of time, according to Argentinian newspaper Pagina 12.
The resolution by the Parliament adopted by 488 votes to 48, with 57 abstentions, considered that "cyanide mining provides few jobs (.), whilst it runs the risk of causing enormous cross-border ecological damage, the cost of which is usually not met by the responsible operating companies, which generally disappear or go bankrupt". The resolution also adds that cyanide mining can have negative impacts on water sources and biodiversity.
In addition it notes that "cyanide is a highly toxic chemical used in the gold-mining industry, one which qualifies as a main pollutant under the Water Framework Directive and which can have a catastrophic and irreversible impact on human health and the environment".
The members of the European Parliament also stated that in the past 25 years there were over 30 important accidents related to the use of cyanide and highlighted that there is no real guarantee to say that another accident won´t happen again. The European Commission rejected these claims.
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