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Gold mine leak 'poisons' 185 people in ICoast: officials | World news

Officials said Tuesday that 185 people were “mildly poisoned” by contaminated water from a gold mine in Ivory Coast that entered a river through a broken valve.

Officials: Gold mine leak ‘poisons’ 185 people in ICoast

The Cavally River, an important source of drinking water and fish for the region's population, flows for several hundred kilometers through the west of the country.

Local official Moussa Dao told AFP that at the end of June “a break in one of the mine's pipes” caused “some of the water” to flow into the river.

“The warning was relayed directly to the local community by Endeavour Mining,” Dao said, adding that “dead fish were found the next day.”

Dao said 185 people suffered “mild poisoning” and reported “bloating and vomiting” at the Ouyatouo village health center where they were treated.

Since then, no new cases of poisoning have been reported, he said.

The country's environment ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the accident was caused by a “broken valve” in a pipe that allowed cyanide-laced sludge from the mine's mining process to leak into a nearby river, which eventually flowed into the Cavally.

It was said that the pollution had caused “vomiting and headaches” among residents and led to “mass fish deaths”.

According to local chief Celestin Balla, people who had consumed water and fish have shown “signs of diarrhea, headaches and pain” every day since the incident.

In a statement sent to AFP on Tuesday, Endeavour Mining “categorically rejects allegations of massive pollution of the Cavally River and endangerment of the local population.”

However, the group acknowledges one incident involving a “faulty valve … which allowed approximately three cubic metres of sludge and decant water to enter the site's diversion channel”, “a small portion of which could have been discharged into the Cavally River”.

In a statement on Sunday, the company acknowledged that the liquid had reached the river.

However, Endeavour said it had replaced the faulty valves and was “monitoring and testing” the water in the river to ensure there was “no contamination”.

Dao said he had taken a series of measures, including banning the consumption of fish and drinking water from the river, as well as providing drinking water to the population.

The Ivorian Center for Environmental Protection went to the site to take samples and will announce its results in the next few days.

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