Rosia Montana

Name of mining area: Roșia Montană perimeter
Location: Roșia Montană commune, Alba county
Licence  issuance date: exploitation permit 
Project holder 2013: Roșia Montană Gold Corporation
Shareholders: Gabriel Resources (80%) and Minvest Deva (<20%)
Data on the deposit: 300 tons of gold and 1600 tons of silver
Project permitting stage: project holder sent the documentation for environment permit evaluation (2004)

The Roșia Montană project in figures

1346 hectares to be exploited, 2388 hectares for which the company owns a licence, 300 hectares covered by a tailings management pond of heavy metals and cyanide, which will permanently endanger more than 6000 people from the neighbouring areas, 4 mountains will be blasted away, 2064 private properties will be relocated, 975 houses torn down, out of which 41 houses are considered national heritage sites, 7 churches demolished, blown up, or covered by the cyanide pond, 11 cemeteries will be relocated, 12.000 tons of cyanide used annually (a total of 240.000 tons of cyanide) are needed, and only 634 jobs will be created over a period of 17 years. (source: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change).

After more than 15 years during which numerous prestigious Romanian institutions, such as the Romanian Academy, the Academy of Economic Studies and specialized organisations such as the Romanian Architects’ Association, the civil society and churches have argued their opposition against the mining project,  the Romanian Government is forcibly trying to adopt a law proposal in the Romanian Parliament, meant to completely destroy the area of Roșia Montana.

The title holder, the license and the contract with the Romanian state

Roșia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) is is owned 80% by Gabriel Resources (TSX: GBU)—a small, inexperienced, financially limited Canadian mining company  that wishes to relocate the Roșia Montană residents, in order to implement the greatest open-cast mine in Europe. The other 20% of the shares are held by Minvest, a state-owned mining company. Since its very beginnings, this project has caused a great deal of outrage, as it was riddled with operational problems and was met with categoric opposition at a local, national, as well as international level. The Newmont (NTSE: NEM) American mining company holds 10% of the Gabriel Resources shares as well.

The concession license for exploiting the gold and silver ore from the Roșia Montană area, Alba county no. 47/1999 was signed between the National Agency for Ore Resources (in Romanian: „Agentia Nationala pentru Resurse Minerale” and the National Copper, Gold and Iron Company „MINVEST” SA Deva (in Romanian: Compania Nationala a Cuprului, Aurului si Fierului „MINVEST” SA Deva) and approved through the Government Resolution no. 458/1999 . Then, it was transferred to Roșia Montană Gold Corporation SA, along with all its annexes. The annexes were declared classified information under the decree 202/2003, signed by Mihail Ianas—the former president of the National Agency for Ore Resources.

The public’s access to the information contained by this licence should  have been the starting point of any honest and fair democratic debate on the costs and benefits of the mining exploitation project proposed at Roșia Montana. Although there have been countless requests to declassify the license and the contract signed by the Romanian state with the mining company, these remain classified to this day. Therefore, any declaration or reference made to potential compensations and their worth should this contract be terminated—is mere speculation.

Environmental impact

The open cast mine at Roșia Montană would be the largest scale exploitation of its kind in Europe;   here, 13 times more sodium cyanide would be used than the entire quantity that is currently being used in Europe. Over the 17 years, 240.000 tons would be deployed in the industrial operation, i.e. the equivalent of 600.000.000.000 lethal doses for an adult. Four mountain massifs would be blasted away; the craters would have a diameter of over 8 km. The current village of Corna would be entirely covered by a tailings management pond, containing cyanide and heavy metals spread over 300 hectares. The stagnant cyanide would then be spread in the air as cyanhidric acid (which is what was used in Nazi concentration camps, albeit in higher doses), attaching itself to the dust particles and staying in the atmosphere for 1- 3 years. The rockfill dam (made of compacted rock materials) would be 185 meters high and over 1 km in length. In Abrud, only 2 km downstream, the are over 6000 people resident.

Community impact

The mining project proposed by RMGC cannnot be implemented without relocating the entire community,  sacrificing the majority of people’s private properties, public spaces and the existing places of worship. Roșia Montană, as we know it, will cease to exist. The traumatic aspect of uprootal has been proven many times before, so a project of this scale would need to demonstrate its public use to its citizens; which it has failed to do in the case of the Roșia Montană mining project. This project is a private one, implemented for individual profit, and despite its creating several hundreds of jobs, it cannot compensate for the medium and long-term social and environmental impact.

Australian researchers at Queensland University carried out a study in 2009 on the community in the case of the Newmont-owned Waihi mine (New Zeeland), which has been presented as a model for Roșia Montana. The study of the community shows a prematurely aged population (in comparison with the average age of the population in the area), displaying a tendency to leave the area on completion of the exploitation, with a double number of individuals suffering from mental health issues, as well as a double number of disabled and socially assisted individuals (compared to the neighbouring communities). Besides having an income below the regional average, the community in question also displayed more cases of domestic violence, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

National heritage impact

Roşia Montana is the oldest mining area that has been documented in Romania (1882 years old),  with mines from Pre-Roman and Roman times, unique in the world, as well as several monument-buildings, all from different historical periods. All of these archaeological and cultural values are good reasons for the area to be included in the tentative list of UNESCO heritage sites; a specific documentation has been compiled for this, and all that is needed is the signature of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.  The company, however, promises 70 million dollars to the Ministry of Culture, in order that it would revoke the title of historical monument for all of these buildings, thus agreeing to their complete destruction. The attempt to protect this heritage, which cannot be compensated for in money, would have to take place in the middle of an active mining area, between 4 craters where every day 10 tons of dynamite would be detonated; under these circumstances, it would be wholly impossible.

The exceptional significance of our cultural and natural heritage, as well as the serious danger that threatens it have led to Roșia Montana being enlisted in the „7 Most Endangered” programme – Europa Nostra.

On the procedure of the environmental agreement

The Environmental Impact Assessment procedure (the EIA procedure) for the Rosia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) started in 2004.  Being extremely complex and technical, the procedure included studies presented by the mining company, public consultations, counter-studies and meetings of the Technical Analysis Committee (TAC), which has been created on an ad-hoc basis within the Ministry for the Environment.

Appropriately and objectively, the direct and indirect effects of a project on all environmental factors, including cultural heritage assets; it is also meant to assess the impact on the community, within the set of interactions and conditions that ensure that quality of life and the fundamental right to live in a healthy environment are respected.

The document that the EIA procedure ends with, i.e. the environment agreement, defines the acceptability of the project from the viewpoint of environmental criteria. At the time of writing this document, the EIA procedure is still being finalized. The Ministry for the Environment, via its minister Rovana Plumb, has declared that a decision in the case of Roșia Montană will soon be made public.

On the local community which opposes the mining project

The Alburnus Maior association is an NGO based in Rosia Montană, Alba county, and represents the interests of those inhabitants from Roșia Montană and Bucium who are opposed to the Roșia Montană project and who refuse to give up their private properties for the sake of the mining project.  The association was founded on the 8th of September 2000 and has been opposing the open cast mining project proposed by Roșia Montana Gold Corporation, out of social, environmental, economic and national heritage concerns. The project proposed uses cyanide and aims to be the largest open-cast mining undertaking in Europe.

The association has initiated and has been coordinating the campaign “Save Roșia Montană” which, over the 12 years of its existence, has become the largest social and environmental movement in Romania.

The “Save Roșia Montana” campaign has taken action in each stage of the authorization process of the mining project, emphasising the weak points of the project by relying on independent specialists. The public has been informed and encouraged to express themselves each time the procedure or the developing events so required. Thus, the SRM campaign has now gathered over 100.000 active supporters.

The material is also available in .pdf


The status of the Roșia Montană mining project

RMGC obtained in July  2011 an archaeological discharge certificate for the Carnic Massif , a very important objective for project feasibility . The new certificate was issued after the old certificate obtained in 2004 , was canceled by a final decision of the High Court of Cassation and Justice. The Carnic Massif protecteds archaeological monuments of national interest. The Court’s decision was based on numerous statements by archaeologists and expert institutions such as the Romanian Academy, which showed that the existence of archaeological remains is incompatible with the open pit mining operation . The new  archaeological discharge certificate is again contested in court. RMGC awaits a downgrade Order from the Minister of Culture  for deletion of Carnic Massif  from the list of hystorical monuments. This order should be discussed and proposed by the National Commission of Historical Monuments , but the committee has recommended the inclusion of Rosia Montana in UNESCO .

Orlea Massif, the second mountain of the four  who would be destroyed , it is also classified as a historical monument . In these mountains were not conducted archaeological researches and RMGC  has not obtained an archaeological discharge certificate. The general urbanistic plans of Rosia Montana and Urban Area Plan for Industrial Development Zone  from 2002  were twice declared as unlawful by the Court of Appeal Alba . However, in July 2012 they were extended by the City Council for two years. They do not reflect the current form of the proposed mining and RMGC  is trying to obtain permits for a new Urban Plan for Industrial Development Zone RMGC. In the absence of such a plan approved,  RMGC can not get any environmental approval for the project.

RMGC project is very difficult to finance. Accordinf to its own declarations, RMGC needs another aproximatively 1,5 billion dolars to start the investition. The main shareholder, Gabriel Resources, does not have this ammount. Several attempts of association have ended in failure for the company even when the gold price reached almost 1,900 dollars / ounce. At present times , the gold price is below  1,500 dollars / ounce, and big mining companies have problems trying to keep afloat their current mining projects. A further decrease in the price of gold would make the Rosia Montana mine profitability to be questioned .

RMGC project is not insured for environmental risks, as provided by EU  laws. Allianz group refusal to join the project significantly reduces the chances of finding another insurer . The solution that would comply with EU  provision is to ensure the project by the Romanian state , which would raise serious questions about the incorruptibility of government members.

Approval of the project by Ponta government could mean a serious case of corruption. A member of the Government,  Minister Delegate Dan Sova , whose powers would enter state asset management in RMGC,  would be  in a state of conflict of interest due to kinship with one of the associates of the law firm Nestor Nestor Diculescu Petersen who represents RMGC.

Public  oppinion in Romania is unfavorable  to the start of the mining project of RMGC. Institutions , ONGs , representatives of religious denominations, active citizens have shown on several occasions opposition agains t the project . Speculating the broad support that Save Rosia Montana Campaign has in public, before coming to power , the ruling party being in opposition,  pledged to stop the mine project and not to approve it.

Report All about the mining project

All you need to know about the Roșia Montană project.
Stages of the environmental impact assessment. 
Save Rosia Montana Campaign Chronology  2002-2013.