Certeju de Sus is an old mining centre in Hunedoara county, located in the south-eastern area of Metaliferi Mountains. The place lies within the Golden Quadrilateral of Apuseni Mountains, in the area of Deva, Brad, Baia de Arieş and Zlatna towns. The mining project of Certej is owned 80% by the canadian company Eldorado Gold and less than 20% by the Romanian state.
Deva Gold Project– technical aspects The gold-bearing deposit in the Certej perimeter has an estimated quantity of 45.5 mil. tonnes with a concentration of 1.8 g/t Au and 10 g/t Ag and is proposed to be mined on a 456.2 ha area. The Certej mining project, with a 16 year duration and a processing capacity of 3 mil. tonnes of ore/year, involves deforestation, soil uncovering, an open pit, two huge waste dumps and and the use of cyanides to obtain gold, as well as building two tailings dams over 63.6 ha. The project area is 456.2 ha, currently covered by: forests 187 ha, meadows 30.7 ha, arable fields 5.3 ha, residential areas 18.7 ha. Out of this area 62.8 ha will be turned into Certej open pit and 63.6 ha into tailings dams for cyanide tailings, in addition to the processing plant and other specific premises. The ore is obtained by uncovering the soil and using explosives – ANFO (a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). This would result in a crater with maximum depth 290 m, dug in 30 m steps.. The ore is delivered from the open pit to the processing plant by 65 t trucks for 24 h/day, 7 days/week, 360 days/year. The ore processing is planned to be performed in several stages by the following methods: Stage I – Flotation of ore to obtain a gold concentrate and flotation tailings; Stage II – Oxidation of the gold pyrite concentrate (the Albion process); Stage III – Cyanidation of the oxidised concentrate and the electrolyte recovery of gold and silver and casting in Dore alloy bullions.
The scale of the Certej mining project requires the use of 26,448 tonnes of sodium cyanide and 15,280 tonnes of copper sulphate during the 16 years of operation. Processed toxic waste will be disposed of in the tailings dam. Drainage water from the mine waste dumps North (32.6 ha) and South (40,.2 ha) is planned to be directed through a drainage channel to settlement tanks to ensure suspended solids sedimentation. Sediments will be transported to the tailings dam for flotation tails. The main dam of the tailings pond is designed to cover 63.6 ha and will be built from rockfill; it will be built in stages, first the initial dam (starter) followed by successive height increases, with a maximum height of 169 m.
. The tailings dam for flotation tails is an extractive waste facility under Risk Category A
considering that a dam failure (loss of the structural integrity of the dam embankments) may produce a major accident (rapid and uncontrolled loss of the content of the tailings dam for flotation tails, which may entail loss of human lives, environmental impacts and material damages), in accordance with the first indent of Annex III of Directive 2006/21/EC. The tailings dam is also classified under Risk Category A
based on its content of inorganic dissoluble/ dissociable cyanides (CNWAD
) classified as very toxic substances (category H6), according to Directive 91/689/CE Annexes II and III.
Certej – Autorities’ incapacity to critically analyse new mining projects.
Mining Watch Romania case study report includes a detailed review of mining operations developed in the area of Certeju de Sus commune in Hunedoara county. It describes the path with plenty of irregularities of the license transfer from the state company to the private investor. The latter gained afterwards huge amounts upon selling the project and hence the deposit to another mining operator with ongoing projects in Greece, Turkey, Brazil and China. The report also includes an account of the very serious mining accident of 1971, kept secret by the communist authorities, which made at least 89 victims. The accident at Certej was considered the most dreadful peacetime disaster in Romania, but this is not the only harm produced by mining in this area. The severe poverty and unemployment upon the sudden closure of the state mine are characteristic for this commune.
The beginnings of the mining project, permit transfer and selling to Eldorado Gold
Canadian company Gabriel Resources set their sights on the Certej deposit
One of the first references of the Canadian company Gabriel Resources (GR) to the gold- and silver-bearing deposits at Certej was mentioned in the press release of November 1998, as “two new gold-bearing areas identified on the property of Certej in Romania”. According to their 1999 Annual Report
, GR purchased two new projects, Bolcana and Băiţa-Crăciuneşti,
adiacente proiectului Certej. adjacent to the Certej project. The same report, signed by Vasile Frank Timiş as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, proposed to shareholders to reorganise the company, namely by splitting it into European Goldfields Ltd and Gabriel Resources Ltd. Gabriel splits and European Goldfields takes over Certej project
Reorganisation was approved and became effective from June 2000. Gabriel transferred to European Goldfields its exploration projects of Certej, Zlatna, Bolcana and Baita-Crăciuneşti.
In 1999 ANRM awarded to the National Company for Copper, Gold and Iron MINVEST S.A., as per art. 46 of the Mining Law 61/1998, , the concession for exploitation of the deposit in the Certej mining area
by the „Concession license for exploitation at Certej, no. 435/1999”. Since 2000, European Goldfields Ltd (80%) in association with the state company Minvest Deva (19%) form Deva Gold SA. In accordance with the Mining Law, Deva Gold becomes affiliated to the License no. 435/1999 approved by HG no. 51/24.01.2000.
It is very interesting to note that the person who signed the association documents between Minvest Deva and Gabriel Resources in 1997 on behalf of the Romanian state is no one else but Nicolae Stanca, current director of Deva Gold SA. The above mentioned journalistic investigation concludes that the initial association agreement and its addenda as well as the establishment of the joint venture in June 1997 allowed the investors to enter on the back door in a business with no mining license. At that time there was no mining law in Romania yet based on which to award mining licenses to private entities for resource exploitation.
European Goldfields and the gold-bearing deposits in Romania
‘It’s a small deposit, I would say at the limit of profitability, especially given that all the costs go up.’
In August 2008 European Goldfields held in Romania an exploration license for an area of 534 sqkm in Hunedoara county
(2.5 times the surface of Bucharest
). Thus, according to information on the company website, European Goldfields extended their old license to a 338 sqkm area west of Certej (an area adjacent to the former mines near Brad), and to a 137 sqkm area near Deva, in the region of the gold and copper deposits at Muncel-Veţel. European Goldfields, majority shareholder of Deva Gold, listed on the Toronto stock exchange (TSX:EGU), estimated the necessary investment for mining the Certej deposit at 136.5 million euro. Eldorado Gold takes over European Goldfields
In December 2011 Eldorado Gold initiated the takeover of European Goldfields for the amount of 2.5 billion dollars
. The acquisition was completed in February 2012. Thus, Eldorado Gold became the majority shareholder of the Deva Gold joint stock company.
. Eldorado Gold Corporation is a Canadian mining company listed on the Vancouver stock exchange, which holds mining perimeters in Greece, Romania, Turkey, China and Brazil.
Voia community's refusal to accept tailings dams location in Balşa commune
Deva Gold proposed initially the arrangement of tailings dams for ore processing waste on Frumoasei Valley, in Voia village.
. The open pit and the processing plant would have been located in Certeju de Sus, and the tailings would have been disposed of in the nearby Balşa commune, Voia village. The tailings dams would have covered 871,995 m2
outside of built up areas of Voia village, north of Certej, as per the Environmental Report for the Regional Urban Plan (PUZ). According to the procedures for obtaining the environmental agreement, the Voia villagers were consulted within a public debate regarding the opportunity of building the tailings dams. In the summer of 2008 the Regional Environmental Protection Agency Timişoara organised two public consultations
on the environmental report for the Regional Urban Plan associated with the mining operation. Several residents of Voia contacted the Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources asking for the Centre’s involvement in a campaign to prevent the approval for building the tailings dams. Within this campaign local people from Voia sent a memorandum to Timişoara Regional EPA requesting the Agency not to issue the environmental agreement
. According to the official minutes
the local residents present at the public consultation in Voia expressed their utter disagreement with the location of the two tailings dams in their commune
. The Replica
newspaper in Hunedoara considers: “Unlike other places, where almost nobody is present at such public consultation meetings and the projects go further without any problems, in Voia almost every household had a representative in the meeting room.” The attendance lists for the public debate, prepared by Deva Gold, can prove this. The public debate initially scheduled for the autumn of 2007 was held on 24 June 2008. The economic offer of Deva Gold
for the Voia area, coming together with the location of the two tailings dams on the village territory, included, among others, 100-150 jobs, the water supply network for the village and building a connection road between Voia and Certeju de Sus. Neither the new by-pass which would have shortened the current route by 30 km, nor the jobs to be created convinced the local people to agree to the tailings dams being built in their village.
‘They want to turn Frumoasei (eng. “beautiful”) Valley, one of the most beautiful places in Romania, in my view, into a pond with cyanide sludge. They want to bring the sludge from Certej through pipes over the hill to Frumoasei Valley. I personally cannot accept this. They may come and give us money and gold, we still won’t give up our Frumoasei Valley and our good water.’
Environmental permitting – lack of transparency and procedural irregularities.