Romanian gold rush cancelled as protesters defeat Europe's biggest mine

Plan to blast Transylvanian mountains dropped despite promise of billions

Romania’s Prime Minister has conceded that his efforts to end a 14-year deadlock and open Europe’s biggest goldmine were likely to fail, after the project provoked nationwide protests against the use of cyanide in the Transylvanian mountains.

The government had argued that the project – by the Canadian mining company, Gabriel Resources – could bring billions in revenue to one of the EU’s poorest countries. But they faced outrage from environmentalists and a public wary of the mining industry after a 2000 cyanide spill at a Romanian gold mine released toxic mud and water into three countries.

Gabriel Resources had first raised the possibility of blasting open four mountains to create the gold and silver mine in the late 1990s, but plans had been thwarted by vocal opposition.

The Leftist Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, was also initially hostile to the new mine, but reconsidered after renegotiating the state’s royalties from 4 per cent to 6 per cent.

In late August he announced that a draft bill would be presented to parliament, prompting nine days of escalating protests which peaked on Sunday when up to 15,000 people packed city centres.

“Basically, today we must rapidly begin the rejection proceedings in the senate, then in the lower house, and that’s it,” Mr Ponta said, after a coalition partner earlier announced that they could not support the project. “It’s very clear a decision was taken.”

Thousands of protesters had gathered on Sunday in Bucharest and the city of Cluj near the planned mine, carrying banners reading: “Gold is not the answer”. Protesters cautioned of lasting environmental damage if the company was allowed to go ahead with the open pit mine at Rosia Montana.

“Rosia Montana is part of our national heritage,” Anca Cojocaru, 34, told the Romania Insider website. “I want my daughter to have a country where culture and nature are not destroyed.”

But thousands had also turned out to support the project, with many hoping that the investment would bring employment and prosperity to a deprived area in the second poorest country in the European Union. With the mountains holding an estimated 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver, the government and the mining company forecast potential revenue of up to £1.5bn for the state in taxes, as well as £1.8bn in services and jobs.

As Europe struggles with slow economic growth, Romania is not the  only country considering turning to its natural resources to try and boost income. Greece – which is implementing the harshest austerity programme in Europe – is facing a similar battle over a goldmine. Both Italy and Spain have approved controversial oil projects to try and raise revenue. But environmental activists are urging a longer-term view.

In Rosia Montana, opponents warned that blasting into the four mountains would wipe out three villages and destroy Roman sites.

It was the cyanide, however, that worried people the most. The spill in 2000 at the town of Baia Mare killed thousands of fish in Romania, Hungary and Serbia and is considered Europe’s worst environmental accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Prime Minister Ponta said on Monday he would look into alternatives to boost income in the deprived Rosia Montana area.

Gabriel Resources, meanwhile, is said to be considering legal action.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff