Toxic Spill at Chinese Copper Mine Kills Nearly 1,900 Tons of Fish

dead fish photo

Photo by la familia brophy via Flickr CC

A top mining company in China, the Zijin Mining Group, allowed a toxic waste water to spill into the Ting river, polluting the major water way, killing nearly 1,900 tons of fish, and threatening the fishing industry in the area. The toxic spill wasn't so much a spill, as a result of gross negligence -- worn equipment and some shady activity. Investigators found that the 320,000 cubic feet of "leaked" waste water actually flowed from a sludge point to the Ting river through an "illegally built passage." The pollution has spread down river into the Guangdong province. What's more, the company successfully hid the spill from investors from July 3, when it happened, to July 12, when the story finally hit the press wires. "The lessons from this incident are painful and the costs are substantial," Zijin said in the statement. During its rapid expansion, Zijin "was overconfident, had a lack of crisis awareness and did not properly handle the balance between economic efficiency, ecological benefit and public interest".

Does this sound at all familiar? Seems that overconfidence and a lack of concern over the welfare of people and ecosystems in the name of profit is an illness going around these days.

Investigations have revealed that the company ignored warnings that the waste water discharge flow at the mine was too high. After first trying to blame heavy rainfall for the toxic spill, the negligence floated to the surface.

Three local officials were fired, and police have detained three company executives and two local environmental officials. The head of the county government has also been suspended.

But that does little to help the people and wildlife already impacted by the toxic pollution. The copper content in the water doubled last Friday, rose still further over the weekend, and in addition a cancer-causing material called sexavalent chrome was also identified in the water, according to China Daily

While environmental officials say the sexavalent chrome doesn't make the water undrinkable, the local residents refuse to use it, buying and selling bottled water instead.

Who could blame them?

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