Thousands of people marched on Sunday against a Canadian company’s plans to open Europe’s largest gold mine at Rosia Montana, in what has become one of the longest-running protests in post-communist Romania.
The movement started a month ago after the Romanian government adopted a draft law clearing the way for a controversial open-cast gold mine planned by Canada’s Gabriel Resources in the heart of Transylvania.
The company, which owns 80 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corp, acquired a mining licence in 1999, but has been waiting ever since for a crucial permit from the Romaninan Environment Ministry.
In Bucharest, about 4,000 people marched despite the rain chanting: “United we can save Rosia Montana,” and carrying Romanian flags.
“I am here in defense of the environment and the cultural heritage of Rosia Montana, but also because I am sick and tired of the way politicians treat us,” protester Otilia Dumitrescu, a 62-year-old retired architect, said.
Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold with mining techniques requiring the use of thousands of tonnes of cyanide.
It promises 900 jobs during the 16-year extraction period, as well as economic benefits.
However, academics and environmentalists say the mine is an ecological time bomb and threatens the area’s Roman mining galleries.
The protesters also chanted slogans against plans by US energy giant Chevron to dig for shale gas in eastern Romania using the controversial “fracking” technique that threatens to contaminate ground water.
“We will continue to stage protests because we want to save Romania,” Orthodox priest Iulian Ghimus said.
About 2,000 protesters also rallied in Cluj, chanting: “Rosia Montana is the heart of Romania.”