Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - Page 5 News List

‘People’s Daily’ accuses mining firm of mishandling toxic leak

REUTERS , BEIJING AND HONG KONG

One of China’s leading newspapers yesterday slammed a major mining firm for its poor handling of a poisonous leak at a copper mine, as the company said it would cooperate with regulators in an investigation.

Zijin Mining Group suspended trading of its shares on Monday after news broke about the spill of wastewater containing acidic copper from its Zijinshan Copper Mine, into the Ting river in the province of Fujian.

But the contamination began much earlier, on the afternoon of July 3, and the public was initially kept in the dark about the spill, which went on for nearly 24 hours.

The People’s Daily said the firm explained that it did not report the accident earlier as “they thought it was just as small matter”.

“How can a company like Zijin Mining, which is an industry with a high risk of pollution, not take a ‘small problem’ seriously?” the state-run newspaper said in a commentary.

“In industries with a high risk of pollution, small problems are the hidden dangers that lead to large accidents, and you can’t ever just count on your luck,” it added.

The firm said it it would fully cooperate in a probe into the spill after receiving a notice from the Fujian Regulatory Bureau of the China Securities Regulatory Commission regarding the incident. It gave no other details.

Thousands of fish — totaling 1.9 million kilograms — were killed by the 9,100m³ of waste water that escaped from a mine containment tank, according to state media reports.

Though water from the river has been declared safe to drink, the 60,000 people affected by the spill are still wary, because the river is a chemical blue color and smells unpleasant.

Villagers are now drawing their water from wells, but worry even those may be polluted. The firm has halted production and said it would compensate fish farmers for their losses.

China has been battling to control the damage to its environment caused by more than three decades of breakneck economic growth, from acid rain to desertification.

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