Roșia Montană (Alburnus Maior by its Latin name) is situated in the Western Carpathian Mountains, Romania. A community of sixteen villages, it is mainly known for its (once) rich deposits of precious metals. The underground gold and silver mines are dating back over two thousand years, making the entire area an amazing archaeological site. Although the galleries are known as “Roman mines” there are some who believe that the mining tradition predates the Roman occupation. Due to the unique features of these mines, Roșia Montană is considered to be a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
In ancient times the gold was mined with hammers and chisels as it laid in extensive veins in the underground. Now what’s left are merely few grams in every ton of earth. Mining means processing thousands of kilograms of earth to gather enough for a wedding ring and some people are willing to do it.
Over the last fifteen years the Romanian leaders have closed secret deals with a foreign mining consortium leading to an impending opencast mining project. Recently the secrets have been partially revealed and have spawned a great controversy.
They would crumble to dust four mountains covered with forests and wildlife, use over 13.000 TONS of cyanide each year (for over 15 years) to extract the gold, bringing the area on the verge of a huge ecological disaster. And all this by creating a dangerous precedent of forcefully expropriating those that would not sell their lands for the benefit of a private company.
Thousands of people from all over Romania believe that the price we will pay may be too high. NGOs and individuals who oppose the mining project have been voicing their concerns and now thousands of protesters are marching every week in the capital and other major cities, demanding the authorities to reconsider their position and stop the project before it’s too late. The movement has been called the Romanian Autumn.
This may be the first genuine display of public opinion since the revolution of 1989. The communist era ended almost 25 years ago, but we are now starting to understand democracy. This may be the first time when we decided not to remain idle and let the country be ruined by those that should defend it.
But our cries are ignored. Now we are asking for your help, as international pressure can prove to be invaluable in our efforts to fight injustice.
The first step is for you to get informed. You may find that you have a very strong opinion about this. Then you may chose to become involved.
So what are our reasons to oppose this mining project? What do we, the people on the streets, fear and what do we want? Leave your answer in a comment below.
- Four mountains will be crumbled to dust, destroying a large forest area and ruining the living habitat of many animals. The company claims that the forest can be restored after the project ends, but we fear that the damage to the bio-diversity and to the natural beauty of the area will be irreparable.
- The excavation will destroy a unique site of antique mines that represent a great Romanian and European heritage.
- The use of cyanide to extract the precious metals. Cyanide is extremely toxic and it will be used in huge amounts in the process of extracting the metals. The residue of the process is a poisonous sterile mud which will be deposited in immense artificial lakes. Even if the sterile residue will be contained in the lakes, there is a high risk that the poison will infiltrate the underground water layer or that it will get released into the atmosphere, leading to acid rain. All this is an ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. We fear that the company and the Romanian state are unable to properly manage the toxic waste and the risks are too high for what there is to be gained.
- Romania will not benefit from the gold. The contract only gives the Romanian state 6% of the mined metals. Even if the project will be executed almost, all the benefit goes to a private company.
- The contract with Gabriel Resources is secret. The state has closed a secret contract and the Romanian people do not have the right to read it. We fear that the contract is the result of high level corruption and that a very bad deal has been struck intentionally.