Rosia Montana, the oldest documented mining settlement in Europe, is of rare importance to Europe as it meets four criteria of highly significant importance for our World Heritage; it also sits on top of the continent’s largest gold deposit. For more than a decade, the Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources Ltd., through its Romanian branch Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, has been trying to start work in the area but has been denied access due to a strong opposition from the civil society and numerous local, national and international NGOs.
Facts and Figures
Through cyanide leaching, the project will use 13,000 tons of cyanide per year (13 times the amount used by all EU countries together), leaving behind 500 million tons of cyanide tailing waste, a lake containing 215 million cubic metres of cyanide contaminated water, held together by a 200-metre dam that is supposed to last forever. The project also involves blasting away four mountains, leaving behind four craters, 8 kilometres in diametre each.
The mine is predicted to have a catastrophic environmental impact on the local ecosystem and, to a great extent, on other ecosystems in the Danube catchment area, due to the use of cyanide and its proven dangers and risks. It was only 13 years ago near Baia Mare in Romania where 100,000 cubic metres of cyanide-contaminated water spilled into the Someş River creating one of the worst environmental catastrophes since the Chernobyl disaster. (2)Aurel Strambean, 20 years chief geologist at Rosia Montana draws attention to the fact that the gold is not the stake at Rosia Montana, but rather the high concentration of rare metals, which are more expensive than gold, such as Arsenic, Molibden, Germanium, Vanadium, Titanium, etc. (3)
Recent enquiries reveal that junior mining company Gabriel Resources has capital to cover solely the expenses required for the start of the project and cannot give assurances about mediating the huge environmental risks, as stated in the company’s Annual Report. (4)The current EIA for exploitation at Rosia Montana, elaborated by the company, does not yet comply with EU regulation. According to Finnish Biochemist Jari Natunen, the planned mine is not sustainable; it does not meet EU regulations about water environment quality or mine waste legislation. There appears not be a detailed plan to control the dust spreading from the mountains. (5)
Since 2000, year after year, dedicated „Save Rosia Montana” campaigners managed to stop the illegal and controversial cyanide mining project by taking action in courts of law, among others. Things changed last autumn, when politicians tried to pass a law that would give Rosia Montana Gold Corporation extraordinary powers, including the right to conduct expropriations in Rosia Montana and to mine for gold.
Few expected the massive street protests which followed, with people flooding the streets and chanting „United, we save, Rosia Montana”. Romania’s biggest civil and environmental uprising in a century quickly went global, spreading throughout 75 cities worldwide, from Bucharest to London and New York to Shanghai.
The movement has seen dozens of artistic projects launched, from the creation of a collective canvas bringing together pieces from around the world, to live performances, film screenings, exhibitions and a human chain around the 4th largest building in the world (the Romanian Parliament).
On May 5th 2010, a resolution that would ban the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union was passed by the European Parliament with 488 votes in favour and 48 opposed. (6) The European Commission, presumably under pressure from powerful pro-mining lobbyists, stopped the resolution from moving any further. (7)
We are part of the Save Rosia Montana UK group that coordinated over 20 London anti-mining protests between 1st September to December 2013. The same volunteers (Oana, Ciprian, Ion) that organise these protests are now part of ESC. ESC will be proactively involved in future european efforts to secure a ban on cyanide use in mining.