An international task force investigating the effects of the devastating cyanide spill from a part-owned Australian gold mine in Romania will be urged to focus on the project's construction standards amid doubts the accident was caused by freak weather.
Sources in the European Commission in Brussels, which will co-ordinate the establishment of the task force, and Hungarian official sources, said questions had been raised about whether construction of the tailings dam met accepted international standards.
The dam burst, releasing a toxic sludge into rivers and creating Europe's worst river pollution disaster for decades. The sources said construction standards were likely to become the key issue in assessing the extent of liability of the project owners, who face damage and compensation claims of millions of dollars
Officials said evidence from people in the accident area raised serious doubts about whether weather conditions, which the project owners have blamed for causing the dam burst, were anywhere near as severe as this.
The Australian manager of the Baia Mare project, Mr Phil Evers, said after meeting the EU's Environment Commissioner, Ms Margot Wallstroem, at the mine site that weather conditions before the accident were "extremely unusual".
This, he said, had created a flood which had burst the tailings dam.
He said there had been heavier than normal snow falls in December and last month, followed by heavy rainfall and
"a very severe thawing event" which had created an extraordinarily large volume of water.
Mr Evers declined to comment on the construction standards of the dam.
The establishment of the task force was announced by Ms Wallstroem during her visit to the affected area.
The mine owners will also conduct their own scientific investigation of the accident, with an Australian expert team comprising an hydrologist, a biologist and a chemist due at the mine site at the weekend.
Describing the contamination of the East European river system as a catastrophe for the people living by the rivers, Ms Wallstroem said she wanted answers about "what happened, how bad is the damage and what can be done to rehabilitate the environment".
She also criticised the Australian half owner of the project, Esmeralda
Exploration, for what she said was an attempt to play down the seriousness of the effects of the cyanide spill.
"They have to be prudent in what they are saying. This is a serious environmental accident. For the people who depend on this water, it is a catastrophe," Ms Wallstroem said.
Australia's Minister for the Environment, Senator Hill, said yesterday he would look at sending technical or scientific expertise to the mining disaster site but stressed that he felt Australia did not have any financial liability for the accident
Crop circles are not a modern phenomenon.
They are mentioned in academic texts of the late 17th Century, and almost
200 cases- some with eyewitness accounts- have been reported prior to 1970.
Since then some eighty eyewitnesses from as far away as British Columbia have reported crop circles forming in under twenty seconds; cases are often accompanied by sightings of incandescent or brightly-coloured balls of light, shafts of light or structured flying craft.
Serious attention was given to the simple circles in 1980 in southern
England. The designs appeared primarily as simple circles, circle with rings, and variations on the Celtic cross up into the mid-1980s. Then they developed straight lines and created pictograms, not unlike petroglyphs.
After 1990 the designs developed exponentially in complexity, and today it is not unusual to come across designs mimicking computer fractals and elements that relate to fourth dimensional quantum physics. Their sizes have also increased, some occupying areas as large as 200,000 sq feet. To date there have been over 10,000 reported and documented crop circles throughout the world, with some 90% emerging from southern England. While many still go unreported each year, the emegence of the phenomenon in the world media and the internet has allowed more information to be lodged.
If you happen to buy the story that all crop circles were originated by two sexagenarians with planks of wood, string and a weegie board, you are not in the minority. Once in a while, governments like to control public interest in unexplained phenomena by generating a disinformation method called 'debunking', a technique invented during the Cold War for the sad purpose of controlling mass opinion in the face of unexplainable phenomena
(this was the prime motive of the 1953 Robertson Panel, details of which are obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act). The method is very effective because the media provides little or no scientific or factual data with which the public can form an educated opinion on the subject.