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 Friday, 6 December, 2002, 22:17 GMT
Greenpeace oppose Romanian gold mine
Greenpeace rally
Greenpeace protesters rally against the mine
Greenpeace activists have rallied in the Romanian capital Bucharest to protest against a controversial gold mining project, which they say will pose a major threat to the region.

A Canadian-based company is planning to open Europe's largest open-cast gold mine in the village of Rosia Montana, one of Romania's oldest settlements in the western Apuseni mountains.

Local residents and several NGOs are opposing the project, which they say will destroy a whole valley with its numerous Roman mine galleries, ancient churches and other important archaeological landmarks, and force more than 2,000 people to leave their homes.

Local resident
The village has a long history of invasion

The massive project, worth $420m, should allow Gabriel Resources to extract 300 metric tons of gold and 1,700 tons of silver over 14 years.

The extracted rocks will be treated with cyanide, a highly toxic substance that is used in gold mining to separate gold particles from ground rock.


The cyanide-rich sewage water will be collected in a 1,000-acre storage reservoir located in a neighbouring valley.

Environmentalists warn of the high health risks posed by cyanide, and fear a repeat of a major environmental disaster that took place at another gold mine in Romania.

Village of Rosia Montana
The valley is full of ancient Roman mine galleries
In January 2000, the dam of a similar reservoir collapsed, polluting the Danube-Tisza river basin. As a consequence of the spillage, hundreds of tons of fish died and 2.5 million people were deprived of drinking water.

Opponents of the mine are also concerned that hundreds of families will be forced to leave their homes.

Although locals have reportedly been offered financial compensation by the mining company for relocation, many do not want to leave their ancestors' land.


Stephanie Roth, a representative of the local NGO Alburnus Major, is campaigning against the impact that the project will have on the life of the local community.

"These people own their land. They don't want to sell, and they don't want to move," she told BBC News Online.

Local town
Locals do not want their environment put at risk

"How on earth can they build a cyanide storage pond in a place where there are houses and farms, without forcefully relocating people?"

Earlier this week, Austrian experts of European Law issued a report saying that compulsory resettlement is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and that the use of large quantities of cyanide goes against a EU directive on groundwater.

Greenpeace is not only concerned about the massive use of cyanide - 10,000 tons a year - but also the risks of transportation in an area that is not served by trains.

"Romanian roads are very bad, and if that huge quantity of cyanide is transported by truck, there is a high risk that sooner or later, incidents will occur," Herwig Schuster, an officer from the Greenpeace Vienna office who has long campaigned against the mining project, said.

Images copyright of Greenpeace/Rizman, reproduced with kind permission.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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