12 October 2017 – The Ministry of Economy brought a new mining law under public debate, which resumes the provisions of the toxic law of 2013. The special law for Roșia Montană is back and is extended now to the whole mining industry (from stone quarries to uranium and copper mines).
“The Romanian Government and the mining industry do not give up the national expropriation law. A new draft bill was proposed, which is beneficial to Roșia Montană Gold Corporation, Deva Gold or Samax Romania alike. Organisations were excluded from the inter-ministerial work group during the new bill drafting process, so as not to interfere with the deals between Romanian officials and industry representatives”, said Roxana Pencea Brădățan of Mining Watch Romania.
Mining Watch Romania expressed their interest to participate in the ministerial work group as early as July 2016. However they were denied participation. “It is outrageous now to see in the explanatory statement that ‘all interested NGOS have participated, the Ministry of Economy being open to all their constructive proposals’”, added Roxana Pencea Brădățan. The Save Roșia Montană campaign and Mining Watch disapprove the way how the new bill was drafted, which excluded environmental organisations or those active in communities directly affected by mining.
Should this new law be adopted, the approval of the gold mining projects such as those in Certej, Roșia Montană or Rovina would be simplified. The Mining Law would become a vast collection of exemptions from legislation in force for the mining industry.
The project provisions have nothing to do with the purpose declared in the explanatory statement. Under the pretence of enhancing citizens’ safety, the draft bill actually operates changes which severely jeopardize the constitutional law protecting private property. Thus the draft bill provides a special category of mineral resources of strategic importance, the exploitation of which is considered to be of national interest and is declared of public benefit. The draft bill does not specify what are the resources in this category, and the very vague criteria established for a resource to fall under the category of strategic resources actually allow for every mineral resource to be considered as such. To quote from the original text, a resource of national interest is that resource which “contributes to the implementation of national interest”.
“This definition would allow the expropriation of all private properties on the lands required for developing mining operations (and even adjacent works of such operations). The draft bill also proposes a very simplified and accelerated expropriation procedure, which mining license holders may use in order to acquire ownership on the lands”, says lawyer Ștefania Simion.
Mining project approval has always lacked transparency: from granting licensing to signing association contracts and more recently to the Romanian state’s litigation with Gabriel Resources. Under the fake pretext of increasing transparency and citizen participation in decision making on mining license awards, the draft bill assigns a confidential character to all data and information on mining licenses.
Moreover, in the draft bill substantiation the ministry invokes the mining companies’ right to equal treatment by the law and to non-discrimination. Actually the draft bill gives these companies an absolutely disproportionate position and privileges, which have nothing to do with equality before the law. For instance mining companies would be exempted from the obligation to compensate in land plots the areas definitively removed from the national forestry real estate register.
This deregulation is so ridiculous that the monitoring of the way how the mining license operator complies with the conditions set in the mining construction permit falls under the responsibility of the… mining license holder!