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Open letter to EU Commissioner for the Environment

WECF signed the open letter to EU Commissioner for the Environment related to calling for a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union by 2011

20.09.2010 |Chantal van den Bossche




To Janez Potočnik
EU Commissioner for the Environment

07 September 2010


                                               OPEN LETTER

Dear Commissioner Potočnik,

We are writing to you in relation to the European Parliament (EP) resolution of May 5th (P7_TA (2010)0145) calling for a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union by 2011.  We remind you that the EP resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority of 488 votes.  The Parliament’s unequivocal call for a ban on cyanide mining is due to the concern of our elected representatives to protect Europe's shared water resources, its biodiversity, and the health and livelihoods of its citizens.

Our hope is that as Commissioner for the Environment you might share these concerns. However your communications to members of the European Parliament  and to environmental groups , fail to justify your refusal to take action in line with the EP resolution, and to assess the gaps in the implementation of existing legislation.

We are also seriously concerned about the non-transparent process of consultations that the European Commission undertook with representatives of the mining industry , while the request for participation of environmental groups and local communities were ignored.  

We remind you that the European Commission is both legally and morally obliged to protect the public interest and to promote transparency, democracy and citizens’ participation in decision-making.

Therefore the undersigned civil society and community organizations urge you to release detailed argumentation on the environmental and economic consequences of a potential cyanide ban and to carry out and release an assessment on the actual implementation of the existing legislation  with regards to existing and proposed cyanide-based mining operations.

In December 2000 your predecessor Margot Wallström welcomed the release of the final report from the independent International Task Force for Assessing the Baia Mare Accident with the following words:

"There is the need to further embrace a culture of openness, transparency and participation. Had citizens felt that they were receiving objective information in the aftermath of the accident then much of the distress, confusion and economic hardship might have been reduced." 

Ten years later these words are still very relevant and compelling. Our demands for more openness, transparency and participation in the European Commission's decision-making related to the risk of cyanide pollution resonate with these words.

The argument that existing EU legislation should ensure safety of cyanide mining operations does not hold water precisely because EU legislation is so weakly enforced. As you are aware, DG Environment is in possession of detailed complaints submitted by both environmental organisations and EU citizens that highlight the failure to enforce the law vis-á-vis the environmental assessment procedures for large scale cyanide-based mine proposals. 

Rather than rejecting the call of the democratically elected European Parliament, the Commission should instead show social and environmental responsibility and leadership by welcoming this opportunity to support non-toxic alternatives to cyanide-based mining. In line with Commission President Barroso’s call for the creation of ‘green jobs’ we call on Directorate-General for the Environment to promote the recycling of precious metals from Europe’s increasing mountains of electronic waste.

To conclude, we demand the opening of a transparent and balanced consultation process regarding the steps that DG Environment will take in order to implement EP resolution (P7_TA (2010)0145) on a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union by 2011. We look forward to your Directorate-General setting out a time-line and participation opportunities for civil society organisations and local communities that wish to be involved in the Commission’s work vis-à-vis P7_TA(2010)0145.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Popov, Center for Environmental Information and Education, Bulgaria

Eugen David, Alburnus Maior/Rosia Montana, Romania


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