- Posted September 4, 2013 by
Thousands of Romanians protest against abusive law project supporting a gold mining project
The draft law grants derogations from other laws in force, including the Constitution, to Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, the Romanian arm of Gabriel Resources, a Canadian based corporation, so that they may begin mining 314 tonnes of gold and 1500 tonnes of silver in the Transilvanian Rosia Montana area starting November 2014. Protesters oppose the draft as an abuse to property rights, and other constitutional rights, democracy and the rule of law. A document issued by the Romanian Ministry of Justice, containing its opinion on the contents of the draft law, has recently been made public. The Ministry itself identifies the many judicial flaws of the document, underlining that it derogates from provisions of the Romanian Constitution.
Moreover, the corporation's mining project is a highly controversial one. Initiated 14 years ago, it has been stalled ever since by environment and civic activists, Rosia Montana locals as well as state and judicial authorities. Moreover, the Romanian Academy, the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies as well as other prestigious scientific institutions and institutional representatives have advised against this project. But what are the mining company's intentions? RMGC intensively lobbies for permission to create Europe's largest open-pit mine in Rosia Montana, which will be 8 km in diameter. To create this mine it will dig out 4 mountains, creating 500 million tonnes of sterile. It will use 13000 tonnes of cyanide per year, 13 times more than Europe's yearly average. The 215 million tonnes of cyanide water resulting from gold extraction will be kept in a pond, protected by a dam. Cyanide is seen by the protesters as the highest threat to the environment - although it is not at all the only threat signaled. Romanian protesters raise the burning issue of a very high level of environmental risk that this project involves, especially the high risk of a massive cyanide discharge. The country has already faced such a scenario in the year 2000 when, in Baia Mare, about 100 tonnes of cyanide spilled causing an ecological disaster affecting Romania and the neighboring countries, with the Australian company operating the mine blaming massive snowfall for the dam breaking. Romanians dread what will happen if, for numerous possible causes, the dam holding more than 200 million tonnes of cyanide water should leak or break. They argue that RMGC cannot and will not properly maintain the dam in the long-term.
The economic side of the project is also an issue. Apart from other provisions, the draft law raises Romanian state's participation to the mining corporation to 25% and the amount of gold it is entitled to to 6% of the total extracted. RMGC claims though that the state's revenues from the mining project and the additional business it will generate and support will amount to about 75% percent of the project's value, though many say these numbers are not realistic. Romanians who oppose the project argue that the country's resources belong to its citizens and that they will benefit too little from resources that are theirs. RMGC also claims that it will create more than 3000 jobs for locals in the first years of activity, 800 of which will still exists in the remaining years of the estimated 16 year period of mining operations. Job creation is a very important part of the company's PR and lobby, as Rosia Montana's population has faced massive unemployment for years. Protesters argue though that the number of jobs available for locals will be, in fact, much lower as the company needs skills that the locals do not have, that the business is a short-term one and the economic and environmental downfall of the area that will follow closure of the mining operation will engender even greater social problems than the current ones.
Cultural heritage and patrimony is also an important issue in the debate. The local community has 2000 years of history behind it, hosting ancient Roman mines and buildings together with other historical and natural monuments. The company claims that it will preserve these monuments but protesters argue that the mining project will damage them as well. Moreover, the protesters contest the draft law as it allows RMGC to deal as it pleases with monuments belonging to the Romanian patrimony, relocating them.
Participants announce that protests will not end in Romania and in the cities where Romanian supporters of the cause dwell. It is expected that they will intensify as the weekend approaches. The social movement manifesting itself these days is a youth movement in essence, given the age range of the majority of participants, even though members of all generations have participated in the protests. It feeds not only on opposition to the mining project in Rosia Montana but also on a generalized strong desire for sustainable, environmental friendly growth, a better future for them and their children together with strong feelings of opposition to Romanian administration, regardless of its political color, abusing its powers, working against the interests of citizens, giving up precious resources for benefits that are too little and generating risks that are too high.
News articles, comments, photos and videos of the events can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/rosiamontana