Certej: Open letter to the Minister of the Environment

27/11/2015 4032 views

To: The Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests
12 Libertăţii Blvd., District 5, Bucharest
For the attention of Minister Cristiana Paşca Palmer,

CC: General Secretariat of the Government
Palatul Victoria , 1 Victoriei Square, District 1, Bucharest
For the attention of Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş,

CC: EU Representation in Romania
31 Vasile Lascăr Str., 020492 Bucharest

Open letter to the minister of environment and to the prime minister of Romania

Dear Ms Cristiana Paşca Palmer,

Mining Watch Romania network, through its members, hereby brings to your attention the nonconformity of the environmental impact assessment for the mining project in Certeju de Sus commune with the relevant Community based legislation, and kindly requests you to act for remedying this situation, by ordering a cumulative environmental impact assessment for all mining projects held by Eldorado Gold in the same area of Apuseni Mountains, envisaged to operate simultaneously.

To support this request we bring to your attention the following aspects:

  1. The gold mine at Certej[1] would be the first cyanide gold mining operation opened in Romania. The mining project is held by Eldorado Gold through its subsidiary Deva Gold and is currently at the mining site construction stage. The project footprint has 456.2 ha, currently covered by forests, pastures, agricultural land and residential areas. A significant part of the project is located in the Natura 2000 site – ROSPA 0132 Metaliferi Mountains. The mine, having an estimated annual output of 3 million tonnes, requires deforestation of 187 ha to locate two open pit mines and two TMFs. The tailings dams, with 169 m high and 70 m high rockfill dams respectively, are an additional issue of concern as they will be located in the close vicinity of several densely populated villages: Hondol, Bocşa Mică and Certej.
  1. Eldorado Gold holds four other mining perimeters in the proximity of the Certej mining project: Băiţa-Crăciuneşti, Certej Nord, Troiţa Piţiguş and Mireş. From a topographic point of view all these perimeters are perfectly adjacent, as shown by the perimeters’ map, and their cumulated surface of 4,865 hectares is two times larger than the Roşia Montană lease which totalled 2,388 hectares. According to the technical data provided by Eldorado Gold themselves, the four adjacent perimeters are not meant to become distinct mining projects, but they are actually different extension stages of the initial mining project at Certej developed by accessing new deposit sections while using the same technological infrastructure (processing plant, TMFs etc.).
  1. Nevertheless the cyanide mining project at Certej was granted the environmental permit no. 8 of 05.07.2012, revised on 28.11.2013, by the Environmental Protection Agency Hunedoara, without any cumulative environmental impact assessment for all its operating stages as described above. On the contrary, the project owner has deliberately split the environmental impact assessment. Distinct assessment procedures are currently ongoing for each operating stage separately, in the absence of any legal request from the competent environmental authority to assess the cumulated environmental impact of all operating stages of the mining project.
  1. To support the previous statement it should be mentioned that, a few months after having obtained the revised environmental agreement for the Certej mining project, the same company Eldorado Gold, through its subsidiary European Goldfields Deva SRL, applied for an environmental permit for Băiţa Crăciuneşti mine, Teascu deposit[2]. However the Technical Report for Băiţa Crăciuneşti indicates that for the Certej and Băiţa-Crăciuneşti perimeters Eldorado Gold will use the same processing plant, the same tailings dams and the same access road network.
  1. Based on the above data we can only conclude that Eldorado Gold, with support from the environmental authorities who issued the permits for the Certej mining project, has artificially split the environmental impact assessment for this project to avoid thus an overall environmental impact assessment for all project development stages. The environmental agreement for Certej project was thus issued by evading the provisions of Order 135/2010 of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which provides under Art. 5 that in the case of investments developed in several stages or on land plots located on the territory of several adjacent administrative units, the environmental impact assessment shall be performed for the whole investment.
  1. At the same time, by splitting the environmental impact assessment for a mining operation covering 4,865 ha Eldorado Gold has also evaded the competence of the Ministry of Environment for assessing the environmental impact and issuing environmental agreements for mining projects[3].
  1. Such artificially split environmental impact assessment procedures have been subject to notifications from the European Union Court of Justice[4], which determined that the European environmental impact assessment Directive can only reach its objective by a cumulative assessment of projects in an area, not by the separate assessment of each project.

Dear Minister, we hereby request you to have this situation remedied as a matter of urgency and to order the reassessment of the environmental impact for the unitary gold-silver ore mining project at Certej held by Eldorado Gold, this time by taking into account all project development stages and complying with the permitting competence of the Ministry of Environment for mining projects.

For additional information please contact Oana Cătălina Poenaru, legal coordinator of Mining Watch Romania network, tel. 0040 0724 317597, e-mail: contact@miningwatch.ro.

 

With kind regards,

Dan Mercea

President of the Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources (Centrul Independent pentru Dezvoltarea Resurselor de Mediu), the organisation acting as Secretary for Mining Watch Romania network.

[1]Certej is the best known mining project held by Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD) in Romania, facing both local and national opposition. The company has resumed the construction site arrangement works in the area based on a new construction permit issued after the one obtained in October 2014 was declared illegal by the State Inspectorate for Constructions and cancelled by the Hunedoara Court of Justice

[2] The Băiţa-Crăciuneşti project was itself split in two parts by the project owner: the access roads (for which the project owner was not required to perform an environmental impact assessment ) and the exploatation stage (for which the environmental assessment was requested, according to the Hunedoara EPA)

[3] According to the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 195/2005, Art. 19, “The environmental agreement or the decision to reject the application, the environmental permit/ the integrated environmental permit for mining projects/ activities using hazardous substances within the processing and concentration process, for production capacities higher than 5 million tonnes/year or in case the area where activities are to be performed is larger than 1,000 ha, are issued by Governmental decisions, based on a proposal from the central public authority for environmental protection.”

[4] European Court of Justice, case C-02/07: “The purpose of the amended directive cannot be circumvented by the splitting of projects and the failure to take account of the cumulative effect of several projects must not mean in practice that they all escape the obligation to carry out an assessment when, taken together, they are likely to have significant effects on the environment within the meaning of Article 2(1) of Directive 85/337”.