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CYPRUS: US company’s toxic waste under scrutiny in Cyprus

Today's Zaman
May 10th, 2007

A group of 50 researchers from the US, Germany, Austria, Sweden, England, Italy, the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (KKTC) and Turkey convened April 25-27 to study the hazards caused by an American mining company in Cyprus.

Professor Ümit Erdem from Ege University’s Environmental Research Center revealed that the Cyprus Mines Corporation (CMC), an American mining company based in Cyprus, dumped 10 million tons of toxic waste into the land during the time of its operation. Over a span of 60 years, waste material such as petroleum and cyanide were dumped into the environment, Erdem said, adding that the poisonous chemicals are still severely affecting the ecological system. According to Erdem, the study group will apply to the court on grounds that the American company has harmed the island’s ecology and said any precautionary measures will be financed by the company.   

The study group, which conducted an on-sight evaluation and discussed ways to resolve the problem, is set to apply to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and courts in the European Union and New York.

“We have been coming back and forth to this site since 1995. The picture is horrible. It is like a death trap. There were pyrites and mountains sprayed with cyanide everywhere and open pools. You can’t walk around for more than 30 minutes because your throat begins to burn from the sulphur,” Erdem said.  

Lefke Environment and Promotion Association President Enver Bıldır said the results of the study were important for all residents of Cyprus. In an Internet declaration, Bıldır asserted that the CMC had exploited the underground resources of the Lefke region. “One cannot overlook the economic and social benefits that the CMC brought to our region. However, the effects of the 10 million tons of waste dumped into the environment are also very severe,” Bıldır said.

Alessndra Casu, a group member from Italy, recommended a budget to rebuild the mining area. German expert Hans Gunther Bart emphasized that rehabilitation work must be launched at once. A British lawyer, Angela Ward, studied the legal aspects of the situation, and Australian member Petra Holzer encouraged communication and public awareness. Holzer pointed to the Bergama-Ovacik gold mine and appealed to nongovernmental organizations to support the cause. Abdul-Khakee of Sweden also emphasized the importance of public awareness and said examples from other countries such as the victims in India’s natural disaster, the effects of environmental mistakes in Russia and the effects of sea pollution will support their legal application.

Pelin Turunç, a researcher from the US, discussed technological methods to recycle the waste material. In a report drafted by the group, the region the CMC mined was described as a “death valley.” The report highlighted that the problem posed a serious threat for the entire Aegean region and called for immediate action, foreseeing easy collaboration between the KKTC Environment Ministry, the Lefke Environment Association, the KKTC Bar and related technical institutions. The group has agreed to abide by the principle of transparency and will produce all necessary documents and information to share with the public.





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