Rosia Montana update

For several years now, environmental activists have been fighting to keep a gold mine from reopening in Romania: a mine that would bring much needed development to a poverty stricken area. A few documentaries have been made about the controversy, including Mine Your Own Business: The Dark Side of Environmentalism. Today, while CEI was holding an event in Bucharest on the issue, the country’s Environment Minister held a news conference to announce that the government is not allowing Gabriel Resources to move forward with its gold mine project because the company supposedly “lacks necessary documentation.”

Gheorghe Lucian, an unemployed miner featured in Mine Your Own Business, had this to say about the decision: “The government must allow the mine to reopen or the future will be very bad for us. “People in Rosia Montana have hope that the mine will reopen. We have no development, and if the mine doesn’t open, we must leave because Rosia Montana will die.”

Fortunately, this decision is not the end of line for the mine, just a setback — an unwanted and unnecessary setback in a string of them for the people of Rosia Montana.

Gheorghe took part in CEI’s panel discussion in Bucharest this morning, along with Ian Foster, who works with New Bera Media, the company that produced Mine Your Own Business. CEI’s president, Fred Smith, served as moderator.

Opposition groups were invited, including Alburnus Maior, the main group opposing the mine, as well as two Romanian senators who are introducing a bill to ban the cyanide method, the preferred method to extract gold, which if passed, would mean the death knell for Rosia Montana. Alburnus Maior declined to take part and we could never get a response from the two senators. Why are they so afraid to defend their views? Greenpeace Romania attended the event and I invited the woman representing GP to serve on the panel but she refused. She did ask a couple of questions during the event and there were some lively exchanges.

Gheorge made many interesting points at the event, but the most compelling one was when he said to let the people of Rosia Montana decide their fate. He held up a bottle of water from his town’s river polluted by the former Communist-era mine and pointed out that Rosia Montana is not a pristine environment that must be preserved at all costs. The environment needs to be cleaned up, which Gabriel Resources has made a commitment to do. And Gheorghe, like the majority of his fellow villagers, would like to have running water and electricity in his home. So just why are environmental activists against cleaning up Rosia Montana and letting the people there improve the quality of their lives?