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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 17:17 GMT
Hungary's shock at cyanide disaster

Dead fish on the banks of the Tisza Tonnes of dead fish have been removed from the Tisza


The Romanian cyanide spill is conspicuous in Romania by its general absence from the press and media, which have instead been focusing on the country's EU aspirations.

But in Hungary, which is bearing the brunt of the pollution from the Aurul gold mine, the media have been reacting with a mixture of shock and indignation.

Under the headline Poison in the water, the Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap compares the cyanide leak to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and writes of stunned Hungarians staring at the "dead river".

A fisherman gathers dead fish caught from the Tisza Lake Hungary says Australia must take some blame
State radio has spoken of black flags being raised along the Tisza River and citizens gathering to "mourn" the river by throwing red carnations into it.

Zoltan Illes, chairman of the Hungarian parliament's environmental protection committee, told the radio that the Australian Government had to take some of the blame for the spill, even if Esmeralda Exploration, the Australian partner in Aurul, was a private company.

"The Australian Government has certain responsibility even for privately-owned Australian companies," he said.

"I think that a Hungarian compensation claim can be asserted at an international court, or perhaps at an Australian court."

Eco-colonization

Mr Illes said that in addition to demanding an explanation from the Australian ambassador, he had set in motion a campaign to bring home the scale of the disaster to the Australian public.

Hungarian ecologists were being asked to contact Australian counterparts to spread the message about "eco-colonis ation".

Dead fish on Tisza banks There are fears the contaminated fish might affect the food chain
"The profit was produced here but the profit is used elsewhere," he told the radio.

"The contamination is being left here, nature is being destroyed here in Central Europe, the health of hundreds of thousands is being endangered, while in the meantime these technologies are, perhaps, not permitted in their own country, in Australia or, say, in western Europe."

Radio Australia has been treating with caution "the alleged chemical spill in Hungary".

It carried a statement by Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill, which said that while the government regretted any environmental damage, Australian mining companies operating overseas observed high standards and it was wrong to "rush to judgment".

The radio added that the government was rejecting calls by the country's Democrat and Green parties to bring in tougher laws on the conduct of Australian mining companies operating abroad.

It quoted Senator Hill as saying that Australia was, on the contrary, "working with many countries to help them upgrade their environmental standards and laws".

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
Cyanide leak mine had technical problems

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