Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cyanide spills into a river at a mining site in Honduras

Cyanide spilled into the Lara River at a mining site in San Andrés Minas, Honduras, after a rock ruptured the tube transporting it. At 11:45 p.m. on March 19, a tractor suddenly dropped a large rock that hit a 50-60 centimeters thick tube transporting cyanide to clean the extracted metals. The puncture caused a stream of cyanide to spill out into the Lara River, resulting in the deaths of thousands of fish.

According to Minosa, the mining company, 150 gallons of the cyanide solution fell into the river, though residents fear the quantity was greater than that since the employers did not notice the spill until a few hours after it had happened.

The next morning, the district attorney in the community arrived to inspect the damage, as well as representatives from the Catholic Church, human rights organizations, and other social organizations. Findings showed that the cyanide reached 300 meters from the spill, but there was not any cyanide detectable 400 meters away.

Representatives from Minosa stated they had the spill under
control in a matter of minutes once they detected the incident. They said their employees are trained for these kinds of emergency situations according to international standards and they plan to increase their security measures to prevent a future accident.

The Lara River experienced a spill in January 2003 that similarly caused the death of a lot of fish. The Lara River is a tributary of the Higuitoque River, whose water serves 40,000 residents of Santa Rosa de Copán.

Accidents like this one are one of the main concerns for having mining in El Salvador. Consequently, there has been a strong Salvadoran community effort against mining, supported by the Archbishop of San Salvador,Don Hugo Barrera . The contamination of water, one of many byproducts of mining, threatens agricultural production, fisheries, livestock, and people.

- Leslie O'Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

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