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Spanish rescue 'failed to avert toxic damage'

EMERGENCY MEASURES by Spanish engineers designed to stop a torrent of toxic waste destroying 'Europe's Everglades' may have been in vain, environmental campaigners claimed this week.

The breach last weekend of an earth bund around a settlement lagoon at the Aznalcollar iron pyrites mine near Seville left an estimated 5M.m3 of acidic slurry contaminated by heavy metals heading for the Doana national park, down the Guadiamar river.

Damage to farmland crops around the park is estimated to top £6M and this week hundreds of rare birds, which had flocked to gorge on fish and crustaceans killed by the slurry, also began to die.

An operation to construct earth dykes to divert the flow into the Guadalquivir river was hailed as a triumph by the Spanish government. But Greenpeace said that although the toxic flow had not reached the park, the buffer zone around Doana's unique wetlands had been contaminated. The park is home to one of Europe's last flamingo colonies, as well as the Iberian lynx and the imperial eagle.

Work is continuing to fill the 50m breach. Swedish-Canadian company Boliden, which operates the open-cast mine, blamed a small earth tremor for the collapse.

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