60 international activists occupy Gold Corporation headquarters in Roşia Montană

Today, September 28th, at 12:00 o'clock, approximately 60 international activists taking part in the Reclaim the Fields camp [1], together with the local association Alburnus Maior [2], from Rosia Montana, Romania, occupied and blocked the entrance to the Rosia Montana Gold Corporations [3] headquarters in the village's Old Square. This action was in defiance of the companies continuing attempt to expropriate locals and destroy an area protected by Romanian conservation law.

Local and international people are opposing plans to open Europe's largest open cast gold mine, which would displace hundreds of families and result in widespread ecological destruction and cyanide contamination of the protected landscape. The peaceful occupation and blockade lasted for two hours and the company decided to leave the public information point closed for the rest of the day.

The proposed mine would destroy the village of Rosia Montana and introduce dangerous cyanide leaching technology, threatening water systems in Romania and beyond with the potential of devastating accidents. Strong local opposition to the gold mining project emerged almost immediately in the year 2000 when the project was announced by Canadian company Gabriel Resources. Resistance to the plan has since spread across Romania and beyond. During the last 10 years, Alburnus Maior, through the Save Rosia Montana Campaign has successfully mobilized thousands of people and has so far kept the plans from being carried out.

The Environmental Impact Assessment procedure for the mining project was suspended in 2008 by the Ministry of the Environment, due to the discovery of illegalities committed by the company. Furthermore, civil society has won several court cases against the Gold Corporation, where it was proved that the mining project was initiated in illegal conditions and involved high levels of corruption, coercion and abuse of the local population.

According to the law, the mining project has to restart from point zero, but the new Romanian Environment Minister wants to proceed with a political decision in favour of the mining project, in a clear violation of the court decisions, as well as of Romanian and EU laws on Environmental Impact Assessment procedures.

The Romanian government seems keen to support corporate interests in the face of local opposition. A new law on expropriation has been recently proposed in the Romanian parliament and is expected to be voted on during the next month. The law would enable private companies, instead of the Romanian state and judicial system, to carry out forced expropriation of residents, in a clear violation of human rights.

In dialogue with the occupying activists, the company spokesperson, Catalin Hosu, rejected any relation between the Gold Corporation and this law and stated that they would not resort to using it if it is passed. In reply, the activists promised to target the corporation with further actions if the promise is not kept.

At the EU level, the European Commission has been refusing to follow up on a May 2010 European Parliament resolution requiring it to make a legislative proposal to ban the use of cyanide in mining. While the Gold Corporation has expressed the intention to adopt cyanide reduction technology in Rosia Montana, recent news exposed that the use of such technology will be much more expensive than originally planned [4]. In response to this, Catalin Hosu replied that the Gold Corporation is committed to respect all Romanian and EU legislation, but did not state whether this technology will be adopted or dropped in face of the costs.NOTES:

[1] The Reclaim the Fields movement (www.reclaimthefields.org) brings together food growers and farmers around Europe that are connecting local practical action with global political struggles. Reclaim the Fields stands against corporate interests and any projects which reduce the access and right to land for food production, abuse local communities and destroy cultural and environmental values. Between 21-30 of September, 2011, several hundred activists from all over Europe and Romania are participating in an unprecedented solidarity camp in Rosia Montana – Romania. The event is organized by Reclaim the Fields together with the Alburnus Maior Association (www.rosiamontana.org), with strong support from the Romanian peasant association Eco Ruralis (www.ecoruralis.ro) and numerous organizations and individuals from across geographical Europe.

[2] Alburnus Maior association represents the local opposition from Rosia Montana against the largest gold mine proposal in Europe which entails the destruction of Rosia Montana and a large area of the Apuseni Mountains in Romania. www.rosiamontana.org

[3] Rosia Montana Gold Corporation is 19.31 percent owned by the Romanian state with the remaining shareholders including Gabriel Resources, Newmont and Barrick Gold.

[4] AFP, Lower cyanide level in Romanian gold mine to cost millions, 23.09.2011,  http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hXIMBYPJT-sYBLCZhIWJf...