Cyprus Mail

‘Red lake’ water where bodies being sought is akin to battery acid

Photo: Christos Theodorides

By Philippe Orphanides

Research conducted in 2015 on the Kokkinopezoula ‘red lake’ showed high acidity levels, which could considerably affect the condition of a body, if there are any there.

The red lake has always fascinated many hikers and tourists but little has been known on its origins and how toxic it is.

In 1923, the Hellenic Chemical Society (renamed Hellenic Mining Company in the 50s) was licensed by the British for copper extraction in the Mitsero location. The prospection showed that, instead of expected copper deposits, there were gold deposits. The mine operated from 1934 until 1945.

In 1959, Kokkinopezoula (the current location of the red lake) was discovered in Mitsero, in the same vicinity as the closed gold mine. Bulldozers, excavators and dynamite shaped what is today’s remnant of the mine where workers extracted pyrite.

The Hellenic Mining Company phased out the Kokkinopezoula mine until 1967, and completely uncovered it to leave it in the crater-like shape it has today.

The bottom of Kokkinopezoula has trapped water from successive rainfall and created a ‘red lake’, the colour of which can be attributed to sulfur.

According to a 2004 report on the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive by the Water Development Department, the Mitsero ‘red lake’ is dangerous and the measures that had been taken so far were not sufficient for protecting the environment.

In 2015, a Mitsero case-study published in Engineering Geology Journal showed that “the pH of the crater lake was noted to be extremely low (pH < 3) during both seasons and that it contains high heavy metals concentrations that pose a risk to the surrounding environment.”

A pH lower than 2 is comparable to battery acid and is enough to kill fish and potentially damage a body.

The case study concludes that Mitsero findings make a compelling argument for remediation of such legacy sites.

Mitsero mine has been abandoned for 70 years, and according to Ifigenia Gavriel, Geologist and Research Fellow at the Laboratory of Chemical Engineering and Engineering Sustainability of the University of Cyprus, the current legislation on remediation of such sites does not address the pollution problems seen in Mitsero, Sia or Kampia.


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