Mineral Policy Center Issue Paper #3, by Robert Moran, Ph.D.:
In the summer of 1998, in the aftermath of a cyanide spill outside the Kumtor Mine in Kyrgyzstan, MPC published the issue paper Cyanide Uncertainties. In that paper, Dr. Robert E. Moran exploded the myth perpetuated by many in the mining industry that the public need not be concerned about cyanide spills at mines. Dr. Moran pointed out that cyanide does not simply break down into harmless elements when exposed to air and water. He found that the cyanide story is actually quite complex and there is much that is uncertain about the toxicity of cyanide and cyanide breakdown compounds. He also found that while mine operators test for some forms of cyanide, they are typically not required to test for other cyanide compounds, and therefore do not.