Roşia Montană loses UNESCO nomination to pay for corruption over gold mine

George Ivascu
29/06/2018 22992 views

Romania’s Minister of Culture, the actor George Ivaşcu, has officially requested delaying Roşia Montană’s UNESCO World Heritage nomination procedure. The announcement comes just one day before the World Heritage Committee was to discuss the file at its 42nd session in Manama, Bahrain.

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The minister’s action is unprecedented and there exists no procedure for delaying a vote by the World Heritage Committee. What makes the matter even worse is that ICOMOS – an UNESCO expert advisory body – recommended Roşia Montană’s immediate inclusion on the World Heritage in Danger List, insisting that the site is vulnerable and requires urgent protection measures.

As a pretext for the delay George Ivaşcu mentioned the ongoing arbitration case between the Romanian State and Gabriel Resources and the later’s claim for $ 4.4 billion in damages. Such statements are irresponsible, manipulative, and merely endanger Romania’s position in the arbitration case. In fact, the only way this money will ever be paid is if Romanian officials agree to shove it, complicit, into the pockets of the Canadian company. Indeed, via his statements and actions, the minister for Culture Ivaşcu offered Gabriel Resources arguments that would give new credibility and weight to the company’s claims in the arbitration case. Victor Ponta made a similar gesture in 2013, saying that “if I did not do anything, I would have to pay, I do not know how many billions of damages to that company.” [1] The Prime Minister’s statement at that time is now being used by the mining company in the case to invoke the promises and assurances given by Romanian officials that the project will be approved.

Victor Ponta, Sulfina Barbu and Kelemen Hunor told us that they will save the heritage by dynamiting it. Traian Basescu proposed to treat pollution by creating a cyanide pond. Today, George Ivaşcu “protects” us in an arbitration case by providing arguments for the adversary and worse still, by sacrificing the millenary heritage he should have protected instead,” says Roxana Pencea from MiningWatch Romania.

The minister for Culture’s reasoning for delaying the nomination procedure is nothing other than a pretext. According to the legal expert, Dr. Marcos A. Orellana, associate professor at the George Washington University of Law, USA: “An inclusion of Rosia Montana to the World Heritage list does not jeopardize the position of the Romanian State in the arbitration case but would even bolster the defense of Romania, given that we are talking about a decision taken by the World Heritage Committee and not by representatives of Romania. ”

In light of the above, George Ivaşcu’s action can only be explained by his desire to protect the huge corruption involved in the Roşia Montană project. Indeed, since the inception of the arbitration procedure in 2015, Romania’s Government blocked all civil society requests asking for transparency and to publicly communicate its argumentation. From documents declassified by the Washington-based ICSID tribunal it is already clear that Gabriel Resources’ pleadings are based on denouncing acts and decisions taken by Romanian officials.

Victor Ponta, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, Mihai Tudose, Radu Berceanu, Kelemen Hunor, Sulfina Barbu, Traian Băsescu, Rovana Plumb, Dan Sova, Florin Iordache, Darius Vâlcov, Liviu Dragnea and Daniel Barbu are all directly invoked by Gabriel Resources in the arbitration case due to statements and endorsements made over the years.[3]

Mining Watch Romania strongly condemns the public manipulation that the Minister for Culture, the actor George Ivaşcu, is staging. At the same time it considers that they run against the interest of the Romanian citizens.

Who are you defending and on whose behalf, Mr. Ivaşcu? Which pockets do you actually referring to when mentioning the $4.4.bn? Aren’t you really just trying to save the skin of all those who signed prized decisions favoring the mining company, and who now are your colleagues in the ruling coalition? How will you be able to look into our eyes, after you have knowingly buried the chances of saving one of Romania’s most valuable monuments of universal value?”, adds Tudor Bradatan from MiningWatch Romania.

Given the severity of the developments, Mining Watch will initiate legal action demanding direct and personal damages from all relevant civil servants involved in the decision to delay the inclusion of Rosia Montana to the World Heritage List. The court action, which will be filed coming Monday, will be a class action open to all Romanian citizens who consider themselves affected by the decision of the Minister of Culture.

EndNotes:

[1] Arbitration request by Gabriel Resources:

[2] Full Statement by Dr. Marcos A. Orellana, Associate Professor of the George Washington University of Law, USA: “The file for World Heritage (WHC) listing has been prepared over many years and is not a response to the arbitration.  Therefore, the Tribunal should not consider the WHC listing as retaliation but as a measure in accordance with the World Heritage Convention.  A WHC listing could therefore strengthen the government’s defense because the protection of Rosia Montana would not just be a unilateral determination by Romania, but by the mechanisms of the WHC.”

[3] The list of Romanian officials directly quoted by Gabriel Resources to backup their claim in the arbitration case are:

  • Victor Ponta is quoted in the request for arbitration with his 2013 public statements stating that we will pay billions if Romania does not approve the mining project.
  • The same goes for order OUG102 / 2013 signed by Victor Ponta, Liviu Dragnea, Daniel Chituoiu, Maria Grappini and Titus Corlatean and
  • order GEO 195 / 22.12.2005 issued by Calin Popescu Tariceanu and Sulfina Barbu.
  • Dan Sova, Rovana Plumb, Daniel Barbu, Victor Ponta – are the initiators of the 2013 special bill declaring the Rosia Montana mine of overriding public interest so as to fast-track the mine and expropriations and of course, the stalled permitting procedures.
  • Reference is also made to the “non-technical committee” that was set up (the Special Commission led by Darius Vâlcov).
  • Florin Iordache was the brain behind a move by Parliament to force through an amendment of the mining law in favor of the Rosia Montana project owner. The bill received a favorable opinion the very night before the plenary vote by the parliamentary commission for Industry led by Iulian Iancu.
  • Public statements along the same lyrics used by Mr Ponta’s have repeatedly been made by  Traian Băsescu, Mihai Tudose and many others. Further names linked to the Rosia Montana gold mine proposal are Radu Berceanu and Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
  • Inconsistent decisions, unanswered promises and statements that changed from opposing to supporting the mine are manyfold. One pertinent examples the is the current leader of the UdMR party Kelemen Hunor, who when being minister for Culture pushed for Rosia Montana’s UNESCO nomination in 2010 and in 2013 entered a protocol with the Rosia Montana project owner in the amount USD 70 million.