Australian mine firm wants cyanide case settled out of court

BUDAPEST, Sep 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) An Australian mining firm is pushing for an out of court settlement with Hungary after it brought a multi-million dollar claim against the firm for a cyanide spill in January, officials said Thursday.

Hungary wants EUR 110 million (USD 98 million) from the Perth-based gold mining company Esmeralda Exploration Ltd., whose Aurul joint venture in Romania spilt some 100,000 tons of cyanide residue into the Somes and the Tisza rivers. Hungary claims more than 1,200 tons of fish were killed.

The firm has "sent a representative and several owners for talks to find out if Hungary would bend towards a solution out of court," said Eva Montsko, spokesperson for the government commissioner responsible for clearing up the spill, in an interview with state radio.

Hungarian Commissioner Janos Goenczy told the firm's delegation that it would push for the full amount of the claim, Montsko said, and that Hungary "cannot lower this demand".

But "so far there has been no mention of concrete figures apart from the initial figure (of the Hungarian claim)," she said.

Goenczy said Hungary was interested "in any honest and feasible final settlement," Montsko added.

From Hungary's Tisza river, the cyanide flowed into the Danube, Europe's second-largest river, and finally into the Black Sea, across six countries.

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