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Roşia Montană
—  Commune  —
Location in Alba County
Roşia Montană is located in Romania
Roşia Montană
Location in Romania
Coordinates: 46°18′N 23°08′E / 46.3°N 23.133°E / 46.3; 23.133
Country  Romania
County Alba County
Population (2002)[1]
 - Total 3,872
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)

Roşia Montană ("Rosia of the Mountains/in the Mountains"; Hungarian: Verespatak; German: Goldbach, Rothseifen) is a commune of Alba County in the Apuseni Mountains of western Transylvania, Romania. It is located in the Valea Roşiei, through which the Roşia River flows. The commune is composed of sixteen villages: Bălmoşeşti, Blideşti, Bunta, Cărpiniş, Coasta Henţii, Corna, Curături, Dăroaia, Gârda-Bărbuleşti, Gura Roşiei, Iacobeşti, Ignăţeşti, Roşia Montană, Şoal, Ţarina and Vârtop.

The rich mineral resources of the area have been exploited since Roman times or before. The state-run gold mine was forced to close in late 2006 in advance of Romania's accession to the EU but Gabriel Resources of Canada want to replace it with a new mine. This has caused controversy over the destruction of Roman remains and on fears of a repeat of the cyanide pollution at Baia Mare.

The campaign against the cyanide mining at Roşia Montană was one of the largest campaigns over a non-political cause in the last 20 years in Romania. A plethora of organizations spoke out against the project, from Greenpeace to the Romanian Academy. Nevertheless, in late 2009, the Romanian government announced it made a priority from the start of the project.



There is archaeological and metallurgical evidence of gold mining in the 'Golden Quadrilateral' of Transylvania since the late Stone Age.[2] Alburnus Maior was founded by the Romans during the rule of Trajan as a mining town, with Illyrian colonists from South Dalmatia.[3] The earliest reference to the town is on a wax tablet dated 6 February 131. Archaeologists have discovered in the town ancient dwellings, necropolises, mine galleries, mining tools, 25 wax tablets and many inscriptions in Greek and Latin, centred around Carpeni Hill.[4] The Romans left Dacia in 271.

Mining appears to have started again in the Middle Ages by German migrants using similar techniques to the Romans. This continued until the devastating wars of the mid-16th century.

Mining was much expanded under the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the encouragement of the Imperial authorities. Charles VI funded the construction of ponds („tăuri”) in 1733.[3] After the empire broke up in 1918, most of the remaining veins were mined out under fixed-length concessions (cuxe) granted to local citizens. The sulphide-rich waste generated large volumes of sulphuric acid which in turn liberated heavy metals into local water sources, in addition to the mercury used to extract the gold.

In 1948 the mines were taken over by the Romanian state, with traditional small scale underground mining continuing until the late 1960s. Attention then turned to the lower-grade gold disseminated through the rock surrounding the veins. In 1975 an open-cast pit was constructed at Cetate for bulk mining. This mine was operated by Rosiamin, a subsidiary of the state-owned company Regia Autonomă a Cuprului din Deva (RAC), and provided 775 jobs,[5] representing most of the employment in the region.[6] The ore was floatation-concentrated at Gura Roşiei and then extracted by cyanide leaching at Baia de Arieş.[7] This mine needed subsidies of $3m/year in 2004[6] and was closed in 2006 before Romania joined the EU.

In 1995 RAC Deva signed a deal with the controversial Romanian-Australian businessman Frank Timiş to reprocess the tailings at Roşia Montană.[8]. Eventually the mining licence for an area of 23.8823 km² around Roşia Montană was transferred to the Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) from Minvest Deva SA (successor to RAC Deva). RMGC is owned 80% by Timiş' Toronto-listed company Gabriel Resources, 19.3% by the Romanian government via Minvest, and 0.7% by local businessmen. RMGC plan to replace the old workings with a new operation according to EU standards, which would be the largest opencast gold mine in Europe. The controversy surrounding this project brought Roşia Montană to world attention.

Mining project

RMGC plan to produce 7.943 million ounces of gold and 28.891 million ounces of silver over 17 years. The project will cost $638m[9] and involves the creation of four mining pits covering 205ha, the first two at the old mining sites of Cirnic and Cetate, followed by pits at Jig and Orlea in Phase II. Up to 250 million tonnes of tailings will be dumped in a 363ha pond in the Corna Valley behind a 185m-high dam.[3]

Gabriel Resources expect their EIA to be approved in the first quarter of 2007, followed by a construction permit, with first gold in the summer of 2009.[10] The company is committed to ensuring an economic platform to create sustainable development that has social and cultural benefits. The company has made it a priority to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of the region. The funds provided by the company to preserve the archaeological finds of the mines are much more than could be expected from the Government.[11]

The accident at Baia Mare in 2000 brought home to Romanians the dangers of cyanide leaching of gold. Resistance to RMGC's plans really started after the Romanian Academy released a report on the project in April 2003.[5] This is a key document which has been somewhat misunderstood over the years, but still gets referred to although it's been overtaken by events and changes in legislation.

Other key documents are the various reports and EIA from RMGC [12] and the ripostes from Alburnus Maior, the pressure group that continued the work started by the Academy.[13][14]


Effects on the environment

See Gold cyanidation for general information on the effects of cyanide from mining operations and relevant legislation

RMGC commit themselves to making sure that the mine operates in a manner that meets or exceeds all international environmental standards. Since 2008, The European Union has allowed no more than 10 parts per million (PPM) of cyanide at mining operations. The Rosia Montana levels will be between 5-7 PPM. Most cyanide will be used up in the mining process; that which remains will quickly be detoxified by using a modern and commonly-applied oxidation process. After the detoxification process, the remaining water will be discharged into a tailings dam. The dam, which will be 188 meters high and nearly 600 meters long, will be built to withstand an 8.0 Richter Scale earthquake and once-in-a-millennium rainstorms.[15]

The 2003 Academy report was completely against the use of cyanide at the mine, recommending that all mining should be suspended until a non-cyanide method could be used. It cited a study[16] claiming that the company had infringed the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) and SEA Directive (2001/42/EC) during the application process up to 2003, although the company submitted a new EIA in May 2006.

The same study claimed that cyanide leaching infringed the Groundwater Directive (80/68/EC). This point was always debatable given the number of other gold mines in the EU using cyanide, and the legal situation changed as the Groundwater Directive was replaced by the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), and dedicated legislation appeared with the Mining Waste Directive (2006/21/EC). The latter has forced the company to plan an SO2/air cyanide detoxification circuit that will reduce the cyanide to below 1ppm,[5] less than 1% of the concentration in the pond at Baia Mare.[17] The Academy were still worried about the release of heavy metals from the tailings, and the products of cyanide neutralisation.

The Academy also mentioned the 2001 Berlin Convention, which was a voluntary ban on cyanide in mining that has not been signed by Romania. The Academy worried that the company would not fully neutralise the tailings, recommending that the company should sign up to third-party audits under the Cyanide Code.[18] The company has now done this.

Other worries of the Academy included the effects of explosions on local buildings, and the possibility of acid rain releasing hydrogen cyanide.

The orange water of the Roşia River is already heavily polluted from 2000 years of uncontrolled mining, with 110 times the legal limit of zinc; 70 times the legal limit of cadmium; and 3.4 times the legal limit of arsenic.[19]. The company say that they will reduce the existing Acid Rock Drainage.

Effects on the local economy

By September 2006 Gabriel Resources had purchased 60% of the properties required for the project from local land owners.[10] Prior to commencing construction of the mine site, the company will need to make additional land purchases from property owners. The Academy report claims that compulsory acquisition would be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the 20% local ownership is not sufficient to justify a 'public interest' defence of expropriation.

According to the company, the project will employ 634 people (including foreign experts) for about 15 years, and 1,040 during construction.[20] Moreover, the company's impact study estimates that at least US$4bn will be injected into the Romanian economy [21]. RMGC will pay a 2% mining royalty, but as Roşia Montană is considered a "less favoured area" (zonă defavorizată), the company will benefit from tax exemptions and reduced customs duties for ten years.[5] Obviously the government will still take 19.3% of the profits directly via Minvest.

The 2003 Academy report[5] argues that the mine will benefit the area only for 20 years or so, and that it would be more sustainable in the long term to create a new industry based on archaeological tourism. Rosia Montana Gold Corporation is working to develop the village as a tourism site so that the community can be economically self-sustaining once the mining project is completed. The company is also committed to preserving and restoring homes and buildings in the village’s historic center, most of which are 100 years old or older.[22] To that end, the company has already finalized restoration of the first building in the historic center, which has become an exhibition space, part of the future Mining Museum.[23]

RMGC argues that the project would have a lasting economical impact on the struggling region of Rosia Montana. Not only will the company implement several aspects to enable new business and economic growth, it will fund a non-profit organization committed to the development of the region that is impacted by the project.[24]

Effects on historical buildings

The remains of the Roman mining town include ancient industrial facilities, temples, baths, houses and tunnels. The latter have been described by UNESCO as "a unique archaeological complex of Roman mine galleries",[25] although company spokesman Adrian Dascalu has suggested that "They're more Austro-Hungarian than Roman".[26] Most of these remains would be destroyed by the project.[5]

Gabriel Resources’ three-year rescue archaeology programme cost $10m and discovered many objects that can now be seen in the "Mining Museum" (Muzeul Mineritului) of Roşia Montană. The Ministry of Culture gave them the Constantin Daicoviciu Award "for excellence in archaeological programs conducted during 2001".[27] The 2003 Academy report thinks that the area could be made a World Heritage Site if the mine did not go ahead, and wants to turn the local economy towards archaeological tourism.

Opponents have claimed that the mine would destroy 900 houses, 9 churches and 10 cemeteries.[28] However most of these will be in the buffer zone around the mine, or in the Protected Area. According to the company, only the Orthodox church and the dormant Greek Catholic church will be destroyed, and the company will pay for the movement of all cemeteries and funeral remains.[3]

Public reaction

The Romanian Academy, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Catholic Church and the Romanian Unitarian Church have all signalled their opposition to the project.[29] Large western NGOs such as Greenpeace[30] and political organisations such as the European Federation of Green Parties[31] are also opposed. The World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation expressed reservations about the project in a 2002 letter to Gabriel Resources when it decided to not proceed with plans to finance the project, although it noted that "Our withdrawal...does not reflect the efforts your team have made in developing the programme's resettlement, environmental, cultural properties and social development issues."[32] The plan outraged Prince Charles of Great Britain, who is fond of Romania's Old Saxon villages. On the other hand some of the local residents favour the development of the mine as the project would greatly increase employment in the town, and inject some estimated $2bn USD into the Romanian economy [33].

In August 2005, the Canadian government announced that it supports Gabriel Resources' project, while in October 2005, Miklós Persányi, the Hungarian Minister of Environment announced that the Hungarian government strongly opposes the project.[29].[34] The Hungarian Historic Churches are particularly concerned about the threat to monuments and churches that are part of the common Hungarian cultural heritage.[35]

In 2005, Gabriel Resources launched a new media campaign for the project. The National Broadcasting Council dismissed complaints that the ads were "immoral", but an email campaign led to the Romanian affiliates of the Discovery Channel and National Geographic pulling the ads anyway.[36]

British actress and campaigner Vanessa Redgrave spoke out against the project as part of her speech for the acceptance of the lifetime achievement award at the 2006 Transylvania International Film Festival. The mining company retaliated with a full page advert in The Guardian, in which they argued that their mines would replace "2,000 years of poor mining practices" and will improve the condition of the environment.[37]

Films: "Gold Futures" and "Mine Your Own Business"

The debate over the Rosia Montana mine project inspired two documentaries so far.

The controversies surrounding the Rosia Montana gold mine project are explored in a documentary entitled Gold Futures by Tibor Kocsis.[38] This film presented the plight of the anti-Gold Corporation residents of Rosia Montana, with a strong emphasis on the cultural and natural treasures of the area. The tourism attracted by the natural beauty and tranquillity of this isolated spot of the world is presented versus the risks of using huge amounts of cyanide in the gold ore processing. Gold Futures was based on Kocsis' previous multiple award winning documentary on the subject entitled: "New Eldorado. Gold. The Curse of Rosia Montana."

More recently a new documentary partially funded by Gabriel Resources, Mine Your Own Business, asserts that environmentalists' opposition to the mine locks people into poverty. The film claims that the majority of the people of the village support the mine, and the investment. The film presents foreign environmentalists as alien agents opposed to progress while residents are depicted as eagerly awaiting the new opportunity.[39]

FânFest festival

From 2004 to 2007, in August, several NGOs have organized a free music festival in aid of the Save Roşia Montană campaign. "FânFest" (Fân means "hay" in Romanian) has featured many big Romanian bands and singers, such as Ada Milea, Luna Amară, Shukar Collective, Timpuri Noi, Viţa de Vie and Zdob şi Zdub. All artists perform pro bono in aid of the campaign and to celebrate artistic diversity and multiculturalism.

The three day FânFest event has a large range of cultural, environmental, musical and outdoor activities as well as offering the chance to participate in various workshops. The main stage features groups performing rock, jazz, folk, reggae and world music. The 2006 FânFest saw a second, "Alternative Activity", tent hosting theatre and dance performances, video projections and other cultural, environmental and social activities.

About 10,000 people attended the 2005 event.


Year Total Romanians Hungarians Roma
1850 5,756 4,651 (81%) 669 170
1880 5,640 4,130 (73%) 1,452 n/a
1890 5,543 4,037 (73%) 1,472 n/a
1900 5,665 4,211 (74%) 1,424 n/a
1910 5,165 3,623 (70%) 1,515 n/a
1920 4,252 3,341 (79%) 880 n/a
1930 4,362 3,673 (84%) 609 60
1941 5,409 4,557 (84%) 651 n/a
1956 4,169 3,684 (88%) 416 63
1966 4,591 4,178 (91%) 317 87
1977 4,393 4,060 (92%) 157 168
1992 4,146 3,808 (92%) 104 228
2002 3,872 3,518 (91%) 55 289



  1. ^ (Romanian) "Roşia Montană", at the Erdélyi Magyar Adatbank's Recensământ 2002; Retrieved on September 4, 2009
  2. ^ Gündisch, Konrad "Siebenbürgen und die Siebenbürger Sachsen" tr. Georg Schuller
  3. ^ a b c d PROIECT Alba SA Zonal Urbanism Plan for Roşia Montană Industrial Area
  4. ^ --- (1976) Dicţionar de istorie veche a României, Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică p. 27
  5. ^ a b c d e f Haiduc, Ionel Report on Roşia Montană by the Romanian Academy Academica 13-14 April-May 2003, pp77-80.
  6. ^ a b Richards, Jeremy "Rosia Montana gold controversy" Mining Environmental Management January 2005 pp5-13 Excellent overview of the project
  7. ^ Gabriel Resources, Overview of Roşia Montană History of mining in the area and describes the geology in detail
  8. ^ Radu, Paul Christian "Viata secreta a lui Vasile Frank Timis" June 23, 2005 (English translation)
  9. ^ Gabriel Resources Annual Report 2005
  10. ^ a b Gabriel Resources Third Quarter 2006 Report
  11. ^ Eddie O’Hara; Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, December 21, 2004
  12. ^ RMGC website EIA and other reports
  13. ^ Main website of Alburnus Maior
  14. ^ Supporters of Alburnus Maior
  15. ^ Report on Environmental Impact Assessment Study, Cyanide Management Plan - Envir and Soc Mngmt System Plans/Cyanide Management Plan - Plan G/RMP_MPG_Cyanide_May06.pdf
  16. ^ Prof. Dr. P. Fischer and Dr. A. Lengauer "The Compatibility of the Roşia Montană Mining Project in Romania with the Principles and Norms of EU and EC" Institute of European Law, University of Vienna.
  17. ^ UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit "UN assessment mission - Cyanide Spill at Baia Mare, March 2000"
  18. ^ ICMI International Cyanide Management Code For The Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide In The Production of Gold
  19. ^ Gabriel Resources Environmental overview
  20. ^ Gabriel Resources Feasibility Study - Executive Summary
  21. ^ Gabriel Resources "Positive Impacts: Economy"
  22. ^ Report on Environmental Impact Assessment Study, Community Sustainable Development Programme [1]
  23. ^ Rosia Montana Gold Corporation [2]
  24. ^ Report on Environmental Impact Assessment Study, Community Sustainable Development Programme
  25. ^ Letter from UNESCO to Alburnus Maior pressure group, June 19, 2003.
  26. ^ Schofield, Matthew Romanian town to be razed for gold", Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 2004. Nice article concentrating on the history of the mines.
  27. ^ Gabriel Resources "Rosia Montana Project - Archaeological Discharge Program" Press release October 17, 2002.
  28. ^ BBC News, "Gold mine campaigner wins award", April 19, 2005
  29. ^ a b Risk analysis by the Alburnus Maior group, November 2005.
  30. ^ NGO statement in support of Roşia Montană community January 22, 2007
  31. ^ European Federation of Green Parties Adopted resolution on Roşia Montană November 2003.
  32. ^ Kaldsay, Rashad. Re: Roşia Montană Gold Project. International Finance Corporation, The World Bank Group.
  33. ^ spiked, "If the gold mine doesn't happen, our village will die", 2 October 2006
  34. ^ Barnett, Neil "Romanian Gold Project Stalled", February 25, 2005. Looks at the Hungarian view
  35. ^ Historic Hungarian Churches Declaration on the Rosia Montana Project, July 21, 2003
  36. ^ Lange, Mark How one mine could save a Romanian town, February 6, 2006.
  37. ^ BBC, "Redgrave in Romanian mine rumpus", 23 June 2006
  38. ^ "Gold Futures",] On-line feature about Gold Futures.
  39. ^ Ham, Mary Katharine "The Forgotten Mammal",, January 26, 2007. Article about Mine Your Own Business and the response to it.
  40. ^ Varga E. Árpád: Erdély etnikai és felekezeti statisztikája (1850-1992) Retrieved 2007-05-14
  41. ^ Transindex Recensamânt 2002 website Retrieved 2007-05-10

External links

See also

Coordinates: 46°18′N 23°08′E / 46.3°N 23.133°E / 46.3; 23.133

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