Protests against Romanian gold mine continue

October 21, 2013

The 14-year struggle to begin mining at Rosia Montana in Romania continues to face opposition from local communities. On Oct. 19, about 2,000 people gathered in the central Romanian town of Campeni to protest against Canada's Gabriel Resources plans to use cyanide to mine 314 t of gold and 1.5 kt of silver in Rosia Montana.

The site has been mined for precious metals since at least Roman times, although work there stopped several years ago.

Supporters of the plan claim it is the best way create jobs for unemployed miners and provide foreign investment to a deprived area. Gabriel Resources owns 80 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corp. and the state owns a 20 percent stake in the mine.

Gabriel Resources has pledged to protect the environment and historical monuments in Rosia Montana.

Gabriel Resources acquired a mining license in 1999 but it has been waiting ever since for a permit to begin operations from the environment ministry.

The government approved a bill to speed up the project, but one of the bill's provisions grants the mine "national interest" status, which would make it easier for the company to force the few locals who oppose the plan to quit their land, in return for compensation, Reuters reported. Critics say this is unconstitutional. The bill is now following a tortuous path through parliament, and it is unclear when a vote will take place.
Chevron has also faced some stiff opposition in Romania for its plans to explore for shale gas.

Plans by the leftist government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta to approve the tapping of natural resources in the European Union's second-poorest state have triggered nationwide protests since the start of September, throwing together local communities, environmentalists, civic rights groups and the clergy.

On Oct. 17, Chevron suspended work on what was to be its first exploration well in the small town of Pungesti in Vaslui county, 340 km (210 miles) northeast of the capital Bucharest, after locals blocked access to the site.

But the people of Pungesti, most of whom live off subsistence farming in one of Europe's poorest regions, have continued protesting, asking officials to revoke drilling plans.

On Oct. 19, more than 800 locals, priests and activists gathered in front of the empty lot where Chevron plans to install the well. Hundreds rallied in other cities.

Related article search: