Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Misunderstanding Opportunities: (Post-)Resettlement Issues in the Recea Neighbourhood of Alba Iulia

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Misunderstanding Opportunities: (Post-)Resettlement Issues in the Recea Neighbourhood of Alba Iulia

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although its gold mining project has been locked in public debates and permit reviews for over a decade, a Canadian-Romanian company privately negotiated with the inhabitants of Roçia Montana commune, Romania, to buy their households and lands, and resettle them in a specially built neighbourhood in the city of Alba lulia. This paper suggests that while the paternalistic character of resettlement has allowed resettlers to partially keep their group identity, and partially to reconstruct it in relation with the host community, it was also based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between resettlers and the organiser of resettlement. Drawing on field research, the resettlement was studied as a "continuous process" spanning three years (2010-12), during which this paper identifies (1) the changes in lifestyle, (2) the mechanisms of community regeneration, and (3) post-resettlement initiatives of resettlers. Although greater living costs (utility bills, real estate taxes, transportation) and unemployment seem to be balanced by better living conditions and greater educational opportunities for their children, the ambivalent paternalistic aspect of the resettlement has negatively influenced the development of the new community. While at first community issues were unsuccessfully addressed to the company, recent public improvement initiatives by resettlers have caused tensions between the two sides.

Keywords

Resettlement, reconstruction, post-resettlement initiatives, resettlement as opportunity

Introduction

According to data from the World Bank, in the 1990s, each year 10 million people around the world were relocated due to development projects not counting war refugees and victims of natural disasters (Serageldin, 1995 and Cernea, 1997)3.

Considering the large media attention to the Ro^ia Montana mining project and the numerous public debates that followed, scholars from across the spectrum of political and social sciences as well as journalists and ordinary people are taking an active interest in its unfolding. In issues that fundamentally affect the lives of people in a community the need for a comprehensive level of knowledge of the resetters' point of view is imperative. Therefore, this study positions itself as a "public sociology" (Burawoy, 2005) endeavour in the issue of resettlement, in which the social realities studied in the field and their scientific analysis can and should actively take part in the democratic dialogue between invested parties. Concretely, in order to learn how the alternative understandings of the opportunities offered by the resettlement process came into contact/clashed we aimed to track the experiences of the people living the project risk area, beginning with the moment they left Ro^ia Montana4 commune to settle in a specially built neighbourhood by Roçia Montana Gold Corporation5, the investor company.

Furthermore, the issue of separate understandings and perceptions of the same situation moves to the forefront in the context of a community in a process of social change in the guise of a "resettlement process" initiated and organized solely by a single actor, RMGC, in the absence of a governmental^ and/or publicly accepted planned resettlement project.

The area of the Ro^ia Montana commune, located 65 km from the municipality of Alba lulia, Alba County, has been mined for gold intermittently over a period of at least 2,000 years until the state-owned mines were closed during the 1990s economic reforms, which left the vast majority of people with no employment alternatives in a mono-industrial community. Apart from the closing down of mines, the restructuring of the Romanian mining sector largely depended on the Government's efforts to attract foreign investments.

When Gabriel Resources Ltd., a "Canadian TSX-listed resource company"6, founded RMGC in 1999 and expressed interest in initiating a surface gold-mining project in the area of the RM commune, controversies ignited both among locals, environmental NGOs and state officials. …

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