Canadian miners criticised in RomaniaPublished by MAC on 2014-10-20
Source: Miningwatch Romania
Civil society groups in Romania have long had a beef with Canadian mining companies - witness their long-running battle with Gabriel Resources (see: Gabriel Resources' latest setback: Romanian parliament rejects mining reforms). These groups are now condemning an agreement to exchange information on procedures for environmental impact assessments between respective governments.
Mining Watch Romania alleges that Eldorado Gold starting construction work on its Certej mine, without having any relevant permits.
The Certej mining project began illegally, without construction permits
16 October 2014
Cluj Napoca/ Romania – Deva Gold, a subsidiary of the murky Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold, illegally started construction works for the development of the cyanide based Certej mine, despite not having acquired any of the relevant permits from the appropriate institutions. Thus the process of cyanide leaching in Romania is on its way.
The Mining Watch Romania network denounces the total lack of vigilance of both regional and national authorities. One of the largest gold mining projects in Romania, subject to Eldorado’s plans, began its first phase. The concerned authorities took absolutely no notice whatsoever of the construction works undertaken. Deva Gold’s impudent action to start the Certej mine is only surpassed by Romanian institutions’ failure to spot and sanction these illegal acts.
Deva Gold SA, a company owned by Eldorado Gold (80%) and state owned Minvest Deva (<20%) started the construction activities for the cyanide-based project located in Certej, Hunedoara county. Currently many large-scale machines are working in the Coranda open pit area. Bulldozers, excavators, along with other equipment level the terrain and prepare the platforms that will have different functions within the mining project. At the entrance in the Certej village, a storage shed is already built and another metal structure is being assembled. None of these facilities has any construction permits. On October 15th, Mining Watch Romania notified the State Inspectorate for Construction to take legal measures and asked for the immediate cease of works.
Deva Gold commissioned the construction works to a controversial local company. There are no informative billboards, as the law demands, on site. The municipality did not authorize the works, although Mayor Peter Cîmpian issued contradictory statements in the local media on October 2nd. It is thus obvious that he was aware of the on-going works, but he intentionally failed to take legal action on the unauthorized sites. Nevertheless, many heavy vehicles loaded with equipment transit already for weeks the center of the Certej village.
The Certej open pit mine started disregarding environmental permits, without securing financial guarantees or any other type of insurance for mining accidents. More than a fifth of the mining project overlaps a Natura 2000 site, a protected area that should be protected from any industrial project that envisages the construction of tailing ponds or open pits. The environmental impact assessment studies are done briefly and superficially, without clearly responding to specific technical issues. For this reason, the members of the Mining Watch Romania network challenged the environmental permit in court. “The case of the Certej mine shows that there is no rule of law in Romania, no authority of state institutions. We only see that the will of mining companies charters everything. This disdain of order is an offence brought to every Romanian. It is the duty of all citizens to demand that this transgression is severely punished in order to discourage any attempt to surpass the laws and the common good”, commented Stefania Simion on behalf of Mining Watch Romania.
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Open letter to the Romanian Minister of the Environment
Alburnus Maior and the Mining Watch Romania
14 October 2014
Dear Minister Korodi Attila
Alburnus Maior and the Mining Watch Romania network express their deep concern regarding your statement that: "We have agreed, in principle, that Romania and Canada will identify ways to exchange information on the procedures for environmental impact assessment, in the case of large mining projects".
These bilateral agreements between Romanian and Canadian environmental authorities come in the context of ongoing approval procedures for three mining projects owned by Canadian companies in Romania: Certej, Baita Craciunesti and Rosia Montana. Each of these projects are submitted to an environmental assessment procedure, some of which are contested in court:
- Certej: in 2013 the Ministry for the Environment challenged in court the environmental permit issued by the regional environmental agency; later the ministry abandoned the law suit; in November last year the Hunedoara Environment Protection Agency decided to revise the permit, a decision that is now challenged in court by the members of the Mining Watch Romania network.
- Baita Craciunesti: On July 7, 2014 the Hunedoara EPA issued a decision to subject the mining project to the environmental impact assessment procedure, although the mine is located entirely within a Natura 2000 site.
- Rosia Montana: the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure began in 2004 and is still not completed to this day. The whole procedure was marked by controversy, in all its stages.
Raphael Girard, the Canadian Ambassador in Romania stated in 2005 at a presentation held for the Gabriel Resources investors that "the Canadian government supports through all its powers the mining project and in addition to this, Canadian embassies in Brussels and Budapest lobby and do all that is necessary to help the project happen". Other lobbying activities by Canadian officials followed in support of Canadian mining companies active in Romania. These included an e-mail exchange between former ambassador Girard and other Canadian officials in 2006. At that time, Girard feared that political tensions in Romania "would push back" and create the need "to educate / prepare a whole new group of public officials and political figures" or "The result is that we lose very valuable time". He wrote in his correspondence that all these considerations were communicated to him by Alan Hill, the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation director.
As recently as March 2013, the press noted that "the Canadian Embassy closely follows the development of the mining projects in Certej and Rosia Montana". Participating in a seminar on 'responsible mining', Philippe Beaulne, the current Canadian ambassador said that "we are in permanent contact with our investors and we hope this deadlock will be resolved in the near future", referring to the Certej mining project.
Canadian Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that in this field of work Canada undergoes complex evaluation procedures, expressing openness to a bilateral exchange of expertize within the environmental agencies, targeting procedures in the evaluation of mining projects. Nevertheless, more than 50 NGOs in Canada say the contrary and launched an information campaign called Save Canada's Environmental Laws explaining the downsize of these legislative changes.
The Canadian government systematically deregulated the environmental legislation. In 2012, environmental organizations accused the unprecedented attack on nature and democracy by adopting a package of laws that led to the repeal of numerous laws. These included weakening the protection regime of fish habitats and more than 99% of lakes and rivers in Canada are set to accommodate extractive projects. Furthermore the environmental assessment procedure was changed by a new adopted law, which provided much reduced standards. In this way, over 3000 proceedings of environmental impact assessment that were in progress were halted and consequently, the consultation of local communities has been terminated. Deregulation continued in 2013, when it stopped requiring environmental assessments of certain projects related to in-situ oil sands mining.
The deregulation was challenged by organizations of the First Nations in an open letter to the Canadian Prime Minister stating that the new legislative changes further demonstrate a pattern of neglect by the federal government that puts the health and safety of Canadians at risk. The leader of the indigenous groups, Stewart Phillip, terrified of measures taken by the government declared: "Bill C-38 completely gutted the environmental agreement procedure. Went even in part so as to reduce federal responsibility from 3300 to rivers, lakes, and streams less than 100".
Given that there is evidence that in the past, the Canadian government representatives were directly involved in supporting Canadian mining companies' investment in our country, we believe, Minister, that you have a greater responsibility in what concerns the future management of this information exchange mechanism. Therefore we call on you to provide the necessary guarantees to the public in Romania that this mechanism will not be a lobby tool for state officials loyal to Canadian mining companies operating in Romania. Moreover, we demand an objective and technical exchange of information aimed at improving environmental decisions to be taken by the Romanian authorities on large scale mining projects. Based on these goals, and in the spirit of transparency governing the operations of any public authority, local or central, we urge you to:
- Inform the public, as soon as possible, on the agreed mechanism communicating which authorities will represent the Romanian side, who will conduct the bilateral discussions, what are the concrete objectives of the information exchange;
- Establish a public register in which any concerned citizen may view the agenda and minutes of the meetings that took place;
- Create for the public in Romania of reasonable opportunities to be informed, through their representatives, on the information exchange, meaning the possibility for observers and representatives of environmental NGOs in Romania to participate at the talks.
President of Alburnus Maior Association
Mining Watch Romania network