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Rosia Montana, Romania

The Rosia Montana valley.  Credit: Alburnus Maior
The Rosia Montana valley.
Credit: Alburnus Maior

The area of the proposed Rosia Montana project is located in the Apuseni mountains of west central Romania. If constructed by Toronto-based Gabriel Resources, Rosia Montana would become Europe's largest open-pit gold mine operation. In order for the project to be economically feasible, the Rosia Montana valley, the oldest documented settlement in Romania, would be carved into four open-pit mines. The neighboring valley of Corna would be transformed into an unlined cyanide storage "pond" covering a surface of up to 600 hectares (1,482 acres), held back by a 180-meter high dam. The pits would generate roughly 196.4 million tons of cyanide-laced waste.

Local opposition to the mine is based in part on the disastrous experience at the Baia Mare gold mine in Romania, where a cyanide spill in 2000 polluted the Tisza and Danube Rivers, contaminating the drinking water supplies of 2.5 million people and killing 1200 tons of fish. The type of dam proposed in Gabriel Resources' Feasibility Study could pose high economic and environmental risks for the company and the country. According to Dr. David Chambers, geophysicist and Executive Director of Center for Science in Public Participation, Gabriel Resources' Feasibility Study does not detail the risks of a landslide or an earthquake in this area, nor does it describe the standard to which the dam was designed in order to withstand this risk. If the dam were to fail, toxic mining residues could be released into the Abrud River near the dam -- potentially resulting in severe damage similar to the Baia Mare experience.

Caption: Protest against proposed open-pit mine.  Credit: Alburnus Maior
Protest against proposed open-pit mine.
Credit: Alburnus Maior

In order to make way for this mega-project, more than 2000 people would be displaced--many of them are subsistence farmers who do not want to leave their lands--and nearly 900 homes would have to be torn down in order to make way for the mine project. The mine would employ a workforce of 250 to 300 people over the mine's estimated lifespan of 15 years, according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's private lending arm.

Gabriel Resources, which has no previous mining experience, had approached the IFC for a loan believed to be approximately $250 million. According to Dundee Securities, a financial securities firm, Gabriel Resources' founder and chairman Frank Timis had two convictions for possessing heroin with intent to sell. An earlier venture of Mr. Timis, a Ukrainian petrol company, had been barred from the Toronto stock exchange. (Gabriel Resources is currently listed on the Toronto exchange.)

On October 10, 2002, the IFC announced that it would not financially support the controversial project. In an official statement, the IFC "concluded that it is in everybody's best interest that we do not pursue discussions with the company regarding IFC's involvement in the project."

The Rosia Montana valley.  Credit: Greenpeace
Rosia Montana valley.
Credit: Greenpeace

The project has also been heavily criticized by a group of 83 economics professors from Romania's prestigious ASE University as well as by a host of international archaeologists who are worried about the project's destructive impact on the area's unique Roman mine galleries and other archaeological treasures. Church leaders have also spoken out against the proposal, which would destroy eight churches and nine cemeteries.

For more information:

Alburnus Maior

Images of Rosia Montana, including existing mining operations:

Financial Times column, Gold is Not Enough.  April 08, 2004.

Comments on the Rosia Montana Feasibility Study
By Dr. David Chambers, Center for Science in Public Participation

Campaigner at Mont Blanc's peak.  Credit: Alburnus Maior
Campaigner at Mont Blanc's peak.  Credit: Alburnus Maior

Evaluating Risk: Investors' Guide to Gabriel Resources' Rosia Montana Proposal

Taking it To the Top: Alburnus Maior press release chronicling the climb of Mont Blanc to call attention to the campaign to save Rosia Montana



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Rosia Montana Voice:

"Rosia Montana is threatened by extinction under the banner of so-called 'development.'  It is time for Romania to refuse projects, which whilst being promoted to greatly contribute to development, in effect will have disastrous impacts on all sectors truly important to life."

-- Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior, an NGO representing over 400 families who oppose the mine

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