Observations on the Chemistry, Toxicity, and Analysis of Cyanide in Mining-Related Waters
Published: January 1, 1998
By: Robert Moran, PhD
From the Foreword:
There is much that is unknown and uncertain about the toxicity of cyanide. The mining industry and regulators claim that cyanide rapidly breaks down in water into harmless compounds, but this is only part of the cyanide story. The rest of the story is that cyanide also breaks down into compounds that are potentially toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. Many of these compounds are generally less toxic than the original cyanide, but may persist for long periods of time. And there is evidence that some of these compounds are stored, or bioaccumulate, in plant and fish tissue.
In addition, when mine operators test for cyanide, they are not required to test for these breakdown compounds. In essence, these compounds go unregulated despite the potential environmental impacts.
There are many legitimate questions about environmental and human health impacts related to the use of cyanide at mining operations that mine operators, regulators, and health officials are simply unable to answer at this time. Mineral Policy Center has produced Cyanide Uncertainties to help industry, government regulators, and local citizens begin the process of assessing these very real, and very serious uncertainties related to cyanide.