In Saint-Félix-de-Pallières, in Gard, an old zinc and lead mine, closed in 1971, continues to pollute land and water, despite the beginning of containment.
This file has poisoned the region for years, in every sense. To the point that this small village of Gard has become a symbol of negligence in the de-pollution of old mining sites in France.
Used since Roman times, Giuseppe's metal mines and the Pallières Cross grew in the 19th centuryis century. Several owners followed each other until they were bought by the Belgian group Umicore, before finally closing in the first years & 70s. "At the beginning of 2010, noises were circulating on the health and environmental consequences of their exploitation", remembers Marielle Vigne, mayor of Tornac.
Today, it is estimated that there are 600,000 tons of waste in the Joseph mine and 1.5 million tons in Croix des Pallières, never clean. Worse, much of the area has been sold to the town hall and to private individuals, without being informed of health risks. Umicore still has from 2 to 3 hectares of residual rock on which the vegetation has not been harvested again since 1971.
In 2008 and 2013, reports gathering geologists and security engineers recognize the pollution of lead and soil of arsenic, with sometimes huge percentages, up to 400 g of lead per kilogram of waste! Without, however, move the state. In 2012, residents created the Association for the rehabilitation of old mines in the Old Mountain (Adamvm).
"At the end of 2015, screening (blood and urine) conducted by the regional health agency (ARS) was conducted on 675 Saint-Félix volunteers and adjacent villages, testifies François Simon, a retired general practitioner. Result: a strong impregnation of the population: 23% of people had doses of arsenic that exceeded the standards, probably altered skin and lungs (cancer), 14% were above the norms of cadmium, which affects the kidneys and some had an excessive advantage. Contamination for which there is no therapy ", adds the doctor.
The ARS speaks of fertilization but not of "Direct contamination". In 2016, the association started a crowdfunding operation and was sent to Séverin Pistre, hydrogeologist of the University of Montpellier, who concluded surface water and groundwater pollution. "In July 2016, we wrote to the prefect asking for the implementation of environmental protection and the care of the most contaminated inhabitants" recalls André Picot, chemist.
Also in 2016, the association complained about the Marseille environmental health center for "Endanger the lives of others, unintentional injuries and water pollution", and he chose Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy, a former investigating judge, as a lawyer. In July 2018, following a new study by Public Health France showing a contamination in about 400 people out of 1,500, Umicore was placed in residence to confine the waste left on five old sites.
Finally the prefect instructed a company of"Post-Mining Experts" which should propose, at the end of 2018, appropriate management measures.