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Aradippou council votes in favour of gold refinery plant (Updated)

Aradippou town hall

(Updated with mayor’s comments)

By Angelos Anastasiou

The building permit for the proposed gold refinery plant in the industrial area of Aradippou, Larnaca, was issued in a majority vote of the municipal council on Wednesday.
The proposal was passed by a six-to-five majority, with one abstention by DIKO’s councillor, while one DISY councilor was absent.
After weeks of controversy over potential health hazards posed by the heavy metals that could be released by the plant in case of an accident, the Aradippou municipal council convened behind closed doors at noon on Wednesday.
The government’s Department of Environment had classed the plant as “light industry”, whereas the Labour Inspection Department (LID) had deemed it “heavy industry”, further fuelling controversy.
“The plant’s operation will release into the atmosphere minor quantities of heavy metals, like gold, copper, lead, iron, tellurium, bismuth, selenium, and mercury,” the LID’s letter of response to the municipal council said.
“In addition to the above heavy metals, chlorine gas will be emitted. […] In case of malfunction, heavy metals like lead and mercury will continue to be released into the atmosphere.”
In conclusion, the LID noted that the plant would also be operating in an area featuring food industries in close proximity.
“Because these could potentially be impacted by the above emissions, the Labour Inspection Department made a negative recommendation to the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee,” the letter said.
“The mayor and DISY’s councilors said they received assurances from experts on the health and environmental hazards raised, and that stricter safety standards will be set forth regarding the plant’s operation,” AKEL councilor Evanthia Savva told the Cyprus Mail.
“And they completely ignored the Labour Inspection Department’s warnings. What can I say?”
Mayor Evangelos Evangelides said a monitoring team will be assembled to oversee everything from the plant’s construction to its operation, to make sure that stringent health and safety standards set by the municipal council are being met.
“When the competent government departments first visited the Aradippou municipality, the [Labour Inspection] Department’s view was against licensing the gold plant, but it later came to favour it,” Evangelides said.
“The answer they gave us was that, after being informed by the environment ministry, they would give a positive recommendation with some additional safety standards. They comprise ten scientific standards regulating the plant’s operation, and they will be included in the building permit.”
Asked to describe how the monitoring team will work, Evangelides said it will be staffed by independent scientists that will be selected by the municipal council.
“We discussed this issue today, and at the next session each municipal group will bring its views so that we can move forward with inviting tenders,” he said.
He added that the team will monitor not only this particular gold plant, but all industrial areas, to ensure public health standards are being met.
“But it will also check that the safety standards we have set for this particular gold plant are being followed,” he added.
The Aradippou industrial area, where the plant is slated for construction, is near the residential areas of Dromolaxia, Kalo Chorio, Aradippou, and the Larnaca municipality.
“Without shame, and without considering the will of the residents and the warnings of scientists, a majority within the municipal council decided to issue a building permit to the controversial gold-refinery plant,” the Green party said in a statement.
“The mayor and the majority of the Aradippou municipal council won the 2015 environmental insensitivity award. Too bad, and shame on you, gentlemen.”
The municipal council comprises Evangelides and six DISY councillors, four from AKEL, and one apiece from DIKO and EDEK.

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