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Incident, Accident, Catastrophe: The Baia Mare Cyanide Spill
Unformatted Document Text:  with bottled water (Mineral Policy Institute 2000b). By February 4, the spill was receiving coverage in the Hungarian media. As reports of devastation started to emerge from Hungary, the Romanian press moved towards a more defensive stance (Bura 2000). Coverage of the story in the two countries escalated quickly. Romanian and Hungarian media became increasingly polarized, seeming to be covering two different stories: Hungarian articles proclaiming the catastrophic devastation, Romanian articles disputing the impact of the spill. The story escalated into a scandal on February 11. On February 12, it broke in the Western media. Esmeralda Exploration and the Romanian government struggled to down-play the Aurul spill. Esmeralda argued that the facility had been properly built and released a statement to the Australian stock exchange that “the incident was an overflow and not a structural failure or leak” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2000). Esmeralda’s CEO said that “there is no evidence to confirm that the contamination… is as a result of the tailing dam overflow” (Purvis 2000). He proposed that “unrelated events could be responsible for a massive number” of dead fish, for example the cold weather (Reuters News Service 2000c). The Story Escalates The spill grew from “incident” to “catastrophe” as ooliticians, advocacy groups and the media invoked ever more striking descriptions. The accident was compared to the destruction caused by World War II; it was called a “fish holocaust” (Reuters News Service 2000b); “a crime against humanity”; 1 and “may be Europe’s worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl”. 2 This last comparison with Chernobyl appears to have become a favorite in the media. Hungarian and Western media documented the moving accounts of Hungarian fishermen. One said, “this river 1 Hungarian politician quoted in (Fanning 2000). 2 Local officials in Yugoslavia quoted in (Savic 2000).

Authors: Argeseanu, Solveig.
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with bottled water (Mineral Policy Institute 2000b). By February 4, the spill was receiving
coverage in the Hungarian media. As reports of devastation started to emerge from Hungary, the
Romanian press moved towards a more defensive stance (Bura 2000). Coverage of the story in
the two countries escalated quickly. Romanian and Hungarian media became increasingly
polarized, seeming to be covering two different stories: Hungarian articles proclaiming the
catastrophic devastation, Romanian articles disputing the impact of the spill. The story escalated
into a scandal on February 11. On February 12, it broke in the Western media.
Esmeralda Exploration and the Romanian government struggled to down-play the Aurul
spill. Esmeralda argued that the facility had been properly built and released a statement to the
Australian stock exchange that “the incident was an overflow and not a structural failure or leak”
(Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2000). Esmeralda’s CEO said that “there is no evidence to
confirm that the contamination… is as a result of the tailing dam overflow” (Purvis 2000). He
proposed that “unrelated events could be responsible for a massive number” of dead fish, for
example the cold weather (Reuters News Service 2000c).
The Story Escalates
The spill grew from “incident” to “catastrophe” as ooliticians, advocacy groups and the media
invoked ever more striking descriptions. The accident was compared to the destruction caused
by World War II; it was called a “fish holocaust” (Reuters News Service 2000b); “a crime
against humanity”;
1
and “may be Europe’s worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl”.
2
This
last comparison with Chernobyl appears to have become a favorite in the media. Hungarian and
Western media documented the moving accounts of Hungarian fishermen. One said, “this river
1
Hungarian politician quoted in (Fanning 2000).
2
Local officials in Yugoslavia quoted in (Savic 2000).


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