Citizens vs. Eldorado Gold Certej 1:0

03/12/2018 7839 views

Mining Watch Romania welcomes the decision [1] of the Ministry of Waters and Forests (MAP) to immediately stop proceedings over removing 56 hectares of forests from the country’ Forestry Fund. The subsequent deforestation of that area, equivalent to a surface of 113 football fields, is crucial for Deva Gold to develop the cyanide-based gold mine in Certej. All in all, a total of 165 hectares of forests would need to be cut to make way for the gold mine. Some are protected under European regulation as Natura 2000 sites.

The Certej gold mine proposal also known as Deva Gold S.A. is a joint venture between Canadian-based Eldorado Gold (80%) and state-owned Minvest Deva (20%). Eldorado Gold, a low cost Canadian gold mining company (TSX:ELD & NYSE:EGO), intends to open Romania’s first cyanide based open-pit gold mine. However, the proposed Certej gold mine project has been beleaguered by scandals, operational problems, setbacks and national, and international opposition due to the use of very large amounts of cyanide and the destruction of pastures, forests and even protected forests (N2000). Similar to the halted Rosia Montana mine, Romanians generally associate the Certej proposal with corruption at the highest political level.

The ministry’s decision comes in result of over 4,500 opinions, suggestions and comments submitted by Romanian citizens as part of a public consultation procedure. Their interventions proved that clearing the 56 hectares of forests would be illegal. This presents an important victory for the country’s civil society organisations and community members who participated in the public consultation.

To develop the Certej mine Eldorad’s Deva Gold requires these forested lands. They are the only possible location for the cyanide tailings dams (TMF), as indicated by several feasibility studies. However, in order to build the dams, Eldorado’s Deva Gold S.A. needs to obtain the right to use the land and to clear the forests.

In order to obtain these rights, Deva Gold omitted or failed to notify the authorities about ongoing litigation over the forest area. “This is not the first illegality committed by the mining operator. In 2014, Deva Gold started making way to access the construction site in the absence of a legal construction permit. And better still, the permit was even cancelled in court”, said Roxana Pencea from Mining Watch Romania.

The 56 hectares of forest are currently part of a lengthy restitution procedure at court. According to applicable law, no decision may be taken over lands that are under a restitution procedure until a final judgment has been taken over the original landownership.

Moreover, a high-level journalist investigation [2] showed the abusive way the forest was leased to the mining company. In spring 2018 the Romania’s Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Alba initiated a criminal prosecution over the forests’ transfer of ownership from the state to the local town hall. Barely one month after having obtained the title deed, the town hall leased the forests to Deva Gold for 20 years.

“The suspension of the deforestation procedure is a heavy blow for the mining company and a strong victory for people power. This is a great encouragement to continue with our strategic litigation activities and opposition. We want and will make sure that the rule of law is applied as far too many citizens suffer from the effects of the abuse of power such as the destruction of protected forests etc.”, adds Roxana Pencea from Mining Watch Romania.

The Certej mining project is held by Deva Gold SA, a joint-venture between Eldorado Gold (80%) and the state company Minvest Deva (~20%).
[3] The 8 perimeters are: Certej, Săliște Hondol, Băița Crăciunești, Certej Nord, Troița Pițiguș, Mireș, Sângerei and Bolcana.