“Red mud disaster” accused receive jail sentences

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A dam failure of the Ajka aluminum plant in northwestern Hungary on October 4th, 2010 released some two million cubic meters (70 million cubic feet) of caustic sludge over a 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) area, killing ten people and injuring 227 and causing several billion forints in damages.

While the first trial that began in 2012 concluded in 2016 that the disaster was a result of natural causes – causing a huge public uproar – and no one had been convicted, the second trial at the Győr court in northwestern Hungary handed out effective jail sentences to the first and second order defendants, the CEO and the technical director of the MAL Zrt. plant, and suspended jail sentences for five other defendants.

The spillage was the most severe environmental disaster in Hungary in recent decades, only comparable to a cyanide spill from a gold mine in Certej, western Romania in 1971. In that accident – also resulting from the failure of a tailings dam that released 300,000 cubic meters of cyanide sludge – 89 people died and 76 were injured.

An investigation by a commission of then Communist Romania concluded that the dam failure was a result of natural causes that could not be predicted and eventually dropped all charges against the leaders of the mine.

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