Five months ago, a storage dam at the Aznalcsllar mine (Andalucia, Spain) broke releasing toxic sludge. The spill covered approximately 5,000 hectares including parts of the Doqana protected area. This is one of the largest protected areas in the EU, and a Ramsar and World Heritage Site. It is recognized as a special area of conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. The mine produces zinc-, lead- and copper-concentrates and is owned by the Swedish-Canadian company Boliden Apirsa.
WWF commissioned the report to assess the progress of the current clean-up activities. Its main message is that the clean-up of the affected areas needs greater coordination and urgency.
The clean-up operations are far from complete, said Tony Long, Director of WWF European Policy Office. In fact, unless we see greater coordination and urgency of restoration efforts, the onset of the autumn rains may seriously undermine the whole clean-up operation. The remedial measures must be carried out effectively and efficiently in line with the Commission's environmental policies and procedures under the Structural Funds.
The WWF report calls for greater coordination between the Spanish national government, the regional authorities and the company responsible for the incident. WWF also calls for urgent measures to increase the rate of clean up, reduce the damaging effects of toxic dust in the cleaning-up process and reduce the impact of water erosion which could lead to the spreading of toxics.
WWF has asked the European Commission to help ensure an independent assessment on the quality of the clean-up, a crucial step for the success of the restoration plan. A single management authority in the area should be established to improve the coordination of efforts among all the stakeholders involved.
Further EU funding for the region should be made conditional to the progress of the clean-up as monitored by environmental indicators, Mr Long added.
For further information and photographs please contact: Guido SCHMIDT, WWF/ADENA coordinator for Doqana, mobile: +34 989 050781 (English, Spanish, German) or tel: +34 1 308 2309/10 (office); or
Alessandra POGGIANI or Giulietta RAK, WWF Mediterranean Programme Office - mobile: +39 347 2370456 (English, Italian) or tel: +39 06 84497425 (office).