Since mid-February 2022, contaminated mine water has been flowing from the Nižná Slaná mine into the Slaná River, the largest river in eastern Slovakia. The mine water spilled from the former iron ore mine has turned the river a rusty colour. The iron content is more than a thousand times higher than permitted, and the levels of zinc, sulphur and manganese are also above the limit. Toxic arsenic levels are 187 times the limit.
For months, the environment and economy ministries have been pointing fingers at each other over responsibility. The state-owned company Rudné Bane, responsible for the reclamation of the closed mine, also refuses to accept responsibility.
River pollution is not the only problem with the mine. Dust containing heavy metals is blown by winds from the dried-up tailings pond on the hillside into the surrounding settlements, and the bottom of the stepped reservoir is not reinforced with concrete. If the downstream drains become blocked, the high pressure of the accumulated precipitation could collapse the sides of the reservoir.
The contaminated waste would flood the village in the valley.