A public enquiry into the leakage of cyanide in August from a gold mine - one of South America's largest - has been stymied because it has run out of witnesses.

An "environmental disaster" is how the Guyanese government had dubbed the leak of an estimated 3.5 million cubic metres of cyanide waste into a tributary of the Essequibo river. The company responsible for the leakage, Omai Gold Mines, prefers to call it an "industrial accident" and says it will provide compensation for any damage caused by the cyanideleak.

Though the Canadian owned mine shut down in August for an indefinite period, it now feels it is ready to restart operations by December. The government however, chooses to differ. Guyana's president, Cheddi Jagan, is quite clear that the mine will be reopened only if the government is convinced that there is no further risk of cyanide leakage in the future.