Miners hope Czech election will end gold extraction moratorium – by Jan Marchal (Business Day – November 18, 2013)

http://www.bdlive.co.za/ [South Africa]

CZECH gold deposits are whetting the appetites of foreign prospectors hoping to see the new government lift a mining moratorium in the aftermath of snap elections.

But rather than a dream come true, the prospect of a gold rush is a nightmare for environmentalists and residents of the hilly region south of the capital, Prague, a popular resort area that holds the biggest deposit.

“No one wants an open-cast mine here, in this wonderful natural setting near the Vltava River,” says Jiri Stastka, mayor of the village of Chotilsko. A few hundred metres from the village, the Vesely Vrch wooded hill and its surroundings conceal about 140 tonnes of the metal worth an estimated 100-billion koruna ($5bn ).

Known as the Mokrsko deposit, this is just more than a quarter of the Czech Republic’s estimated 380-400 tonnes of gold, which is about 1% of the globe’s deposits. But locals fear irreversible environmental damage, particularly the pollution of groundwater since toxic cyanide is used in the extraction of gold.

“The hill would become a hole 200m deep, whose bottom would lie below the river. Cyanide is dangerous for the environment, one can never rule out an accident due to the human factor,” Mr Stastka says.

Astur Bohemia, the Czech subsidiary of Canada’s Astur Gold, recently applied for a five-year licence to exploit minerals.

It is one of five companies queuing up for gold-mining permits from the Czech environment ministry.

Others include Delta Bohemia, a branch of Delta Gold Corporation, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and local Czech company, GTS Potamon.

Gold mining in the lands now comprising the Czech Republic stretches back two millennia. It flourished between the first and third centuries under the Celts and then again with the Slavs in the 14th century. But standing in its way now is a moratorium on gold mining, which the government imposed in the 1990s in response to similar requests by foreign prospectors.

“No gold deposit is being exploited in the Czech Republic,” industry ministry spokesman Filip Matys told AFP.

Prospectors are now betting on the next government, a likely coalition of the left-wing Social Democrats, ANO movement and centrist Christian Democrats, lifting the moratorium.

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