MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian study of Romanian mine's impact gets delayed

Published by MAC on 2004-02-17

Canadian study of Romanian mine's impact gets delayed

By Radu Marinas, Forbes magazine

February 17 2004

Bucharest, Feb 17 (Reuters) - A Canadian company planning to set up Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine in Romania said on Tuesday it may need a few more months to submit an environmental study needed for the government to approve the project.

Gabriel Resources wants to start in 2005 churning out an estimated 500,000 ounces of gold a year, but its plan has faced opposition from environmentalists, archaeologists and local groups, as well as government reluctance. "

The EIA (the environment impact assessement) will be submitted in the coming months," Adrian Dascalu, a spokesman for the Toronto-based mining company, told Reuters. He would not elaborate. The latest delay comes after the firm said in September that the it expected to produce the documentation needed to get the Romanian government's approval within six weeks. In December, it said that the study was due by the end of March 2004.

The gold mine, which is Gabriel's main development, got a provisional green light from a parliamentary committee, but Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said last June his government was reluctant to give final approval because it was environmentally hazardous.

Gabriel owns 80 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, which was set up to build and operate the mine in Alba Iulia, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital.

In line with EU

The environmental permit, which has to be issued by the Environment Department - an agency within the Agriculture Ministry - is key for the multi-million-dollar project to materialise.

"We'll need six to 12 months to assess their large-scale project, which must observe the European Union's strict norms," Ioan Jelev, director of the Environment Department, told Reuters.

Gabriel said it would submit a study showing its project is in line with EU laws and international conventions."It will also include a chapter making clear that EU legislation has been fully observed," Dascalu said.

Local groups have decried what they have described as the planned destruction of ancient Roman gold mines in the area, the environment and nearby villages. Thousands of locals will need to relocate to make way for drilling sites.

Gabriel has so far obtained 39 percent of all residential properties necessary to start the mine, Dascalu said. The company has pledged to use the latest environmentally friendly technology and has said the project will benefit Romania.

The European Commission unveiled tougher rules on mining firms last year to reduce the risks of environmental disasters caused by waste dumps and the collapse of toxic ponds.

The move was partly prompted by Romania's Baia Mare gold mine disaster in 2000, when waste from a state-owned mine devastated a network of rivers including the Tisza, which starts in Romania and flows into neighbouring Hungary.


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