Magazine article New Internationalist

Rosia Montana's Last Stand

Magazine article New Internationalist

Rosia Montana's Last Stand

Article excerpt

Sheltered from the pouring rain, Eugen David looks out from the porch of his small farmhouse over the Transylvanian town of Rosia Montana (below) and the huge crater that lies carved into the mountain behind it. Somewhere beneath the earth lies the gold that has been drawing foreigners to the area for two millennia. Now, the area has been targeted for what would be Europe's largest cyanide goldmine, and the destruction of everything he can see: the town, the mountains that surround it and the ancient Roman mining galleries that burrow beneath it.

The issue of the mine resonates throughout Romania. The opposition group Albumus Maior, which was started in David's house 15 years ago, has spread across the country, mobilizing hundreds of thousands and spawning the Save Rosia Montana campaign, the biggest protest movement since the bloody revolution of 1989. Over 15 years of protests, petitions and legal battles, they have stopped the mine at every turn.

The mining project is being developed by Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources Ltd which, with Romanian state-owned Minivest, has created the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC). The company's logo is everywhere, its gold-and-green colour scheme representing the values it claims to hold: economic development and sustainability. The official line is that the mine can only bring good to Romania.

The Albumus Maior office sits in the centre of Rosia Montana, surrounded on each side by RMGC-owned buildings. Its co-founder, Sorin Jurca, talks of RMGC's scheme to buy out the entire town and its inhabitants. 'Over 70 per cent of families have now sold out. Almost all the public institutions have gone. The offers they make are often irresistible to cash-poor people.'

He is not only talking of property. 'We have evidence the company is paying villagers to give testimonials for their adverts. In exchange for $1,300 and a four-month job you have to say some positive words about them into a camera.'

The communal life that traditionally characterizes Romania's rural towns is in decline here, under the divisive influence of the mine. Those who used to live as friendly neighbours now avoid eye contact. Farmers struggle with workloads that previously would have been shared across a co-operative, now disbanded.

'Life is hard here,' admits David. …

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