Romanian environmentalists protest plan to mine gold using cyanide in Rosia Montana heritage area, 2002-2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
July
2002
to
19 November
2013
Location and Goals
Country: 
Romania
Location City/State/Province: 
Rosia Montana
Location Description: 
small heritage area in the Apuseni Mountains with ancient Roman mining settle remains and artifacts
Goals: 
To stop the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation's plans to start a cyanide-extraction gold mine and develop a sustainable plan for development in Rosia Montana and the Apuseni Mountains
 

Rosia Montana is a small group of villages in Alba County, Romania rich in minerals, especially gold and silver. Various groups have mined Rosia Montana for centuries. The area has a vast network of pre-Roman Empire gold mines, which serve as historical and archeological resources and cultural heritage sites.

The Canadian Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) began researching Rosia Montana as a potential mine location in 2000, the same year that residents founded the Alburnus Maior Association, a group that represented the families of Rosia Montana. RMGC planned to use cyanide, a dangerous substance, to extract gold and silver from the mines on land bought from Rosia Montana homeowners. In July 2002, the Local Council defined the future industrial zone and protected areas, and RMGC started to make plans for the development and relocation of the community.

Following this step by RMGC, Alburnus Maior hosted a meeting in Rosia Montana that culminated in a statement against the plans from the people of Rosia Montana and 34 local and national NGOs. They specifically criticized the use of cyanide and the potential for forceful relocation of citizens. Over the next several months, Daniel Daianu, former Minister of Finances spoke out against the plan; the International Monetary Fund decided to stop financing the project; representatives of various churches stated that they would not sell any land to RMGC; and archeologists voiced concern about the destruction of a unique historical site.

At this point, Alburnus Maior officially created the Save Rosia Montana Campaign, which provided a space for NGOs to partner, plan, and campaign together. The new coalition widened the scope of the campaign and made it more accessible to the entire nation and the environment. Save Rosia Montana created an extensive list of demands that insisted the government reject any mining plans, ban the use of cyanide as a mining technique, and treat Rosia Montana as a historically and culturally significant site. Alburnus Maior remained active on a local level, but Save Rosia Montana planned many of the larger actions.

Despite this outpouring of opposition, in December 2002, the National Agency for Mineral Resources authorized RMGC to mine in the Rosia Montana area. Soon after, Greenpeace launched its campaign in Romania with a protest march in Bucharest. Throughout 2003, Alburnus Maior conducted several protests and more groups and actors, such as the Prime Minister, Greenpeace Hungary, and church representatives, made statements against the plans. On 6 October, Save Rosia Montana began a solidarity march for Rosia Montana. About 100 citizens from across Romania came to Rosia Montana to express their support for the townspeople by marching through the town alongside its residents. Alburnus Maior continued to demonstrate against RMGC and parties that still supported the proposed mining plans, such as the Romanian and Canadian governments.

In March 2004, the Alba County Environmental Protection Agency stopped the authorization that would allow RMGC to begin mining later that year. Because the process was merely stalled, not entirely abandoned, more protests and marches took place throughout the year. Central and Eastern European Greenpeace created an information tour, “Save Rosia Montana,” and collected 27,000 signatures against the plans from 23 July to 2 August. Save Rosia Montana also hosted a music festival, FanFest Rosia Montana, which raised money for the actively involved environmental NGOs. This festival became an annual event.

Over the next ten years, the back-and-forth continued. Activists held protests in both Rosia Montana and Bucharest, and the plans for the mine continued to stall in the government. Much of the battle took place in the courtroom, with both sides bringing lawsuits against the other. In June 2006, the state-owned mine was closed, but neither side gained any significant advantage during this time period. Save Rosia Montana, Alburnus Maior, and Greenpeace all focused most of their efforts on suing RMGC in an effort to force the government to prohibit mining in Rosia Montana. However, they continued to host small rallies and the popular FanFest music festival. The campaign continued, but the overall situation was stagnant.

Beginning on 1 September 2013, Save Rosia Montana launched a fresh series of rallies across the nation. These protests responded to a law that the Romanian parliament was considering. If enacted, the law would speed up the mining authorization process. Activists considered the law corrupt and unconstitutional, especially as the text of the law allowed the company to relocate any citizen who lived within the prospective mining region. Three thousand citizens attended the first protest in Bucharest, and other rallies in cities had high attendance as well. Later protests attracted as many as 7,000 attendees. Despite low coverage by the media, the protests continued to grow in size, and rallies continued to occur every Sunday.

On 19 November 2013, the Senate rejected the bill that would allow plans for the mine in Rosia Montana to progress. They recommended that a new bill be created, but until then, RMGC could not mine in Rosia Montana. The groups did not consider the bill’s rejection a victory, but public interest fizzled out, and the Save Rosia Montana Campaign disbanded.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The Save Rosia Montana campaign was inspired by a mining dam breakage in 1971 in Certej that caused 89 deaths due to cyanide poisoning. (1)

Sources: 
Anon. 2002. “Greenpeace Oppose Romanian Goldmine.” BBC News. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191607/http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2550205.stm).

Anon. 2002. “The Rosia Montana Declaration.” Retrieved November 24, 2015 (http://www.rosiamontana.ro/img_upload/472936e3bca2bc61045730fbb1869240/rosia_montana_declaration.pdf).

Anon. 2010. “Greenpeace Activists Demand Rosia Montana Gold Corporation to Stop Working on a Disaster.” Save Rosia Montana. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (http://rosiamontana.org/en/index.shtml?cmd%5b314%5d=x-314-37548&cmd%5b316%5d=x-322-37548&cmd%5b300%5d=x-299-37548).

Anon. 2011. “Protest Against Planned Cyanide-Process Gold Mine in Romania.” Earth First News. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191703/https://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/protest-against-planned-cyanide-process-gold-mine-in-romania/).

Anon. 2012. “The Environmental Permit Has Been Released for the Certej Cyanide Project.” Save Rosia Montana. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102192005/http://rosiamontana.org/en/index.shtml?cmd%5b314%5d=x-314-40201&cmd%5b316%5d=x-322-40201&cmd%5b300%5d=x-299-40201).

Anon. 2012. “Protest Targets Romania Gold Mine.”RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191839/http://www.rferl.org/content/environmentalists_storm_romanian_ministers_office_int/24469147.html).

Anon. n.d. “Chronology Of the ‘Save Rosia Montana’ Campaign from 2002 until Present.” Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191419/http://www.rosiamontana.ro/img_upload/472936e3bca2bc61045730fbb1869240/cronologie_campanie_scurt.doc_aq_EN.pdf).

Ilie, Luiza. 2012. “Greenpeace Activists Storm Romanian Ministry over Gold Mine.” Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved (http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_greenpeace-activists-storm-romanian-ministry-over-gold-mine_1644331).

Ilie, Luiza. 2012. “Romanians Protest against Gold Mine Plan.” Reuters. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191757/http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/28/romania-protests-rosiamontana-idUSL5E8CS0KI20120128).

Moraru, Carmen. 2012. “Save Rosia Montana Campaign Claims in the Street the Resign of the State Secretary in the Romanian Ministry of Environment.” CNN iReport. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/doc-758696).

Save Rosia Montana. n.d. “Activism Kit: Actions.” Save Rosia Montana. Retrieved November 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151102191504/http://rosiamontana.org/en/categorii.shtml?cmd%5b321%5d=c-1-32838&cmd%5b316%5d=x-322-32903&x=32903&set%5b319%5d=selected-32838&set%5b321%5d=selected-32903).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Irina Bukharin 4/10/2015, Iris Fang, 7/10/2012