MAC: Mines and Communities

Romania: Rosia Montana protected from mining by its historical status

Published by MAC on 2016-01-16
Source: Romania Insider,, Guardian

Romania’s Ministry of Culture shuts down the Rosia Montana gold mining project

Romania Insider

13 January 2016

Romania’s Ministry of Culture has decided that the town of Rosia Montana and its surroundings should be classified as category A historic monuments. This means that any intervention that may affect the area is forbidden.

The Ministry of Culture’s decision thus puts an end to the controversial Rosia Montana gold mining project held by the Canadian company Gabriel Resources, according to The mining company’s representatives haven’t made any comment on this.

The 2-kilometer perimeter around the town which was declared historic monument also includes the mining sites, some of which are almost 2,000 years old. Rosia Montana was first registered as a settlement in the year 131 AD by the Romans. Back then it was called Alburnus Maior. The Roman mining galleries around Rosia Montana have also been included in the historic site.

The Ministry of Culture made the decision on December 30, 2015, when it published the historic monuments list for 2015. The ministry modifies the list every five years.

Rosia Montana was classified as a category A historic monument in 1992 but lost this status due to other decisions the Ministry of Culture made in 2004 and 2010. In 2004, the ministry decided to split Rosia Montana into five perimeters, some of which were declassified as historic monuments, to allow private investors to start working on the mining project.

Culture Minister Vlad Alexandrescu recently said in a TV show that the ministry had also notified the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) about some irregularities in managing the Rosia Montana heritage by some state institutions, such as the National Heritage Institute. The institute is in charge of making the historic sites lists.

Fresh setback for Gabriel Resources in Romania, Rosia Montana named historic site

Cecilia Jamasmie

14 January 2016

After spending 15 years trying to build a $2bn gold mine in Romania, Canada-listed Gabriel Resources may have to re-evaluate its plans as the village where it was planning to set up shop has been declared a site of historical interest.

The decision grants Rosia Montana protection from industrial activities, including mining, AFP reports.

“The culture ministry has finally decided to protect our cultural heritage,” history professor Ioan Piso, one of the main opponents of the project was quoted as saying.

Gabriel Resources, which holds an 80% stake in the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, filed in July a request for international arbitration to obtain compensation from Bucharest over the delays to its flagship project.

For years Romanians have protested against the project, which they deem as an environmentally risky project and an even larger problem of political corruption.

The pollution concerns are tied to the company’s planned use of cyanide to extract 300 tonnes of gold and some silver from the ore.

The company, which has spent over $1.5 billion on the project since it first acquired the concession in the late 1990s, argues the mine would bring hundreds of jobs and boost Romania's economy. It also says the project would help the rehabilitation of an area polluted from previous mining.

Romanian village blocks Canadian firm from mining for gold


14 January 2016

A Romanian village where a Canadian firm is planning a controversial open-cast goldmine has been declared a site of historical interest, granting it protection from mining activity.

“Rosia Montana village has been designated a place of historic site of national interest which has a radius of two kilometres [just over a mile],” said Adrian Balteanu, the Romanian culture ministry’s adviser on cultural heritage.

“At such a site, all mining activity is prohibited,” he said on Thursday.

The step is a new blow for Canada’s Gabriel Resources which has been trying for 15 years to get an environment ministry permit to extract 300 tonnes of gold from the picturesque village in a project it claims would create hundreds of jobs and boost Romania’s economy.

But experts say the project, which would use thousands of tonnes of cyanide, would pose a pollution risk, level four mountains in a historic area of western Transylvania and would also damage Roman-era mining shafts.

The plans have sparked widespread anger, bringing tens of thousands of people on to the streets in a scale of protest not seen in Romaniasince the 1990s.

Activists hailed the decision to declare the village a protected area.

“The culture ministry has finally decided to protect our cultural heritage,” said history professor Ioan Piso, one of the main opponents of the project.

“If this mine opens, Romania would lose both a historic monument unique for the gold it contains while the site would have turned into a moonscape,” he said.

“This is an important step, we must now make sure this classification is respected,” said Eugen David, head of the Alburnus Maior Association which has been fighting the project for years.

Gabriel Resources, which holds an 80% stake in the Rosia Montana GoldCorporation, declined to comment on the move.

Last July, the company filed a request for international arbitration to obtain compensation from Bucharest over the delays to the project.

Initially in favour of the mine, Romania’s former leftwing government abruptly changed its position in 2013 following a wave of unprecedented protest across the country.

Romanian civil society wins key victory against proposed gold mine

Romanian civil society is celebrating its success after a decade-long fight against a gold mining project in Rosia Montana. The site was recently included in the country's tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage.

17 February 2016

Streets were full of people protesting. There were no "typical" protesters: They were students, retirees, leftist intellectuals, liberals, nationalists. That was Romania in 2013, opposing the Rosia Montana mining project. Protests were billed as the largest since the revolution in 1989, when Romania gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Recently, the movement has taken an important step forward. The village of Rosia Montana and the region surrounding it in Transylvania have been included as candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage List, fulfilling one of protesters' key demands. The Ministry of Culture declared the village site one of historical interest, and has prohibited all mining activity there.

However, the status of the mining project remains unclear. The Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources - which owns almost 81 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation - still presents the project as "fully scoped and currently in the permitting phase" on its website.

So, how did a whole country mobilize to defend the cause of a village of 4,000 inhabitants? And, what is likely to happen with the mining project, which would have been Europe's largest gold mine?

Power to the people

Gabriel Resources had been trying for more than a decade to implement its gold mining project in the Romanian mountains. Back in August 2013, draft legislation was poised to give the company the green-light to start work on the mine.

The Rosia Montana campaign, initially organized by locals who would have been affected by mining pollution and mountaintop removal, spread through social media. A mass of protesters - the likes of which had not been seen since 1989 - took to the streets to oppose the foreign company's development.

The thousands of protesters were enraged over potential environmental damage, including cutting the tops off of several mountain peaks and the use of cyanide, as well as over destruction of historical sites.

In addition, 2,000 people would have lost their homes, and the private company would have been granted property expropriation rights.

World heritage victory

After years of persistence on the part of civil society actors, Romania's ministries of environment and culture on February 5, 2016, announced the inclusion of Rosia Montana in the country's tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage.

This would provide international protection and support to the area. The decision came after 10 consecutive ministries rejected seeking such a declaration.

The Alburnus Maior Association, main representative of the movement to save Rosia Montana, celebrated the governmental decision: "This is not just a huge gain for our cultural heritage; it's a great victory for civil society - for the thousands of people here and abroad who demanded for Rosia Montana to be saved," stated its president, Eugen David, in a press release.

Environmental damage to a cultural treasure

Environmental impacts from the mine would have reshaped the region by removing the tops of four mountains. Moreover, processing mined gold ore requires the use of cyanide, a highly toxic substance that can harm ecosystems.

Disasters related to gold mining are not isolated cases. Since the 1970s, at least 11 gold mines have caused irreparable environmental damages around the world.

Romania has already twice suffered such impacts. International media named the most recent occasion, the Baia Mare cyanide spill of 2000, the worst environmental disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Archaeologically, Rosia Montana is considered a world treasure. "Rosia Montana's mine is the most important Roman mining complex still existing," said Florian Matei, a consultant for the Romanian Ministry of Culture. "It guides us through our history, from Roman times to communism," Matei told DW.

Based on an independent report from British experts, the ministry advisor emphasized that the ancient site must be preserved as a whole, and not only in pieces - as the mining company had proposed.

All that glitters is not gold

Although Rosia Montana has been included on the country's tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the fight has not come to an end. The selection process can last for more than two years, and the proposal may be rejected.

On the other hand, a lack of political stability in the field may sabotage conservation efforts. "A new change on the government could favor the mine again," Claudia Apostol, a key leader of the campaign to protect Rosia Montana, told DW. "But we are also very optimistic, the [conservation] situation is improving every day," Apostol said.

The Romanian Ministry of Culture, together with its Ministry of Environment, are working on a sustainable development plan to protect and revitalize the area, Matei added.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Resources continues to seek approval. The mining company refused to make further comment, but provided a document presenting a promise to protect the cultural heritage and work within a sustainable environmental framework.

Apostol does not trust these statements, and is convinced that Romanian people will not leave the future of Rosia Montana in the hands of a mining company. "We've come a long way thanks to the Romanian civil society. You can bet people will stay mobilized!"

"Now, more than ever," Apostol concluded.


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