By: Luiz Brasil- The Brock Press
Over 15,000 Romanians joined in protest last week in reaction to their parliament’s introduction of a bill, that if passed, would allow a Canadian mining company to level four mountains and create Europe’s largest gold mine. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has responded to the protests by saying that the bill will not be passed.
The mine was expected to bring in over two billion dollars to the poor European country, but the Prime Minister says they will need to look towards other foreign sources for aid in the face of immense opposition from both the population, and from rival political parties. Most of the opposition cited cultural and environmental concerns as their reasons for being against the mine.
Along with the removal of four mountains, the mine also demanded the relocation of three villages in Rosia Montana, a poor area of the country, and the destruction of the earliest documented human settlement in Romania, which dates back to 131 B.C.E. “I want my daughter to have a country where culture and nature are not destroyed.” Anca Cojocau, 34, said to a Romanian Insider news web site.
Environmentalists are concerned with the use of cyanide, a dangerous and toxic chemical that plays a large part in extracting the gold. One protester spoke as such of his worries concerning the mine, “I do not see any benefit for the state in this case, I do not see how one company can use about 13,000 tonnes of cyanide in our country when just 1,000 tonnes are used a year in all EU countries combined.”
The immense backlash the government suffered over the bill may be due in part to a large cyanide spill that occurred thirteen years ago in Romania, caused by Aurul, an Australian gold mining company. The spill ended up killing large populations of fish in Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia, and at the time was called the worst European environmental disaster since Chernobyl.
The bill was entered almost 15 years ago and had been contested until Gabriel Resources, the mining company behind the bill, agreed to up Romania’s royalty share from four to six percent.
Romanian Foreign Investment Minister Dan Sova cautioned against blocking the bill, saying “If we block this investment, they will sue us. In case of a litigation, we won’t have an easy position at all. This gold mine should be done.”
Gabriel Resources, who is listed in Toronto, has said that they may sue for damages over the 550 million dollars that they have invested in the mine so far. They may seek up to two billion dollars in recompense, according to Prime Minister Punta.
This puts the Romanian government in a difficult position, facing the wrath of their own people if the bill is passed, or possibly enormous fines if it isn’t.