Gold fever is global. In Romania, the gold fever is even more infected than in Galicia.
People across the country took to the streets last week to protest against an open gold mine project in Roșia Montană, Transylvania. This would become the largest gold mine in Europe, and the plans have been on the table for fifteen years. The Canadian mining company has not yet received all necessary permits to go ahead.
No wonder permits have been hard to get, considering that the mine would force people away from their homes, destroy four mountain tops, leave behind a lake of cyanide, and destroy ancient mine galleries from the Romans, suggested to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
What is happening now?
In September, the Romanian parliament is expected to vote on a new law, which would give green light to start exploiting. This is what set off the protests. Here are some of the recent articles around the conflict, and it seems we can expect new developments to be reported day by day.
The revolution begins with Rosia Montana, OpenDemocracy (4 September)
Romania’s struggle for democracy is encapsulated in a village, The Guardian (5 September)
Romanian gold rush cancelled as protesters defeat Europe’s biggest mine, The Independent (9 September)
Romania expected to reject gold mine following week of protest, The Guardian (10 September)
Romanian spring or Carpathian autumn?, OpenDemocracy (11 September)
Gabriel Resources ready to sue Romania for over $4bn, mining.com (11 September)
Gabriel Resources CEO threatens S4B suit against Romania, Business News Network (11 September) – It is always interesting to hear both sides, here is the business side, expressing their concern for the people in Romania if the project can not proceed, and by the way, they also do care about “cultural things”…
Roșia Montana, un loc la marginea prapastiei, Town on the brink, a film by Fabian Daub (2012, 1 hour 18 minutes). Most of the spoken word is in Romanian, but if you can live with the language barrier (and I suggest that you try!), this film gives you a beautiful introduction to this area and its people. If you listen carefully, you’ll catch a few words you’ll recognise, like intimidare, desinformare, corruptie…
Fân Fest is a yearly festival in Roșia Montană. It started as a protest festival in 2004 and has now evolved into a cultural/activist event, gathering increasing numbers of people, also from abroad.
Why do I care about this? Because I think about…
- … that there is no undo button. Once the mountains have been destroyed, the gold extracted, the profit made (most of it by foreign investors) – then what?
- … how thrilled I would be to have the chance to walk into those ancient gold mine galleries from the Romans. To destroy them? Pure madness!
- … Tiny man, as I call that little figure that I wrote about earlier, dating from the 4th-5th century. Perhaps that gold came from such an ancient Roman gold mine in Transylvania. I love that thought!
- … me as a European. This is my history too. This is my continent, I don’t want a part of it to be destroyed, in return for a potential environmental disaster. What kind of deal is that?
- … the giggling smile of this woman’s face when she says: “What (European) country takes the property from its people and sells it abroad? They keep screaming that there is a crisis, and at the same time they give away tons of gold!”
- … how possibly, one day water will be the new gold. And isn’t it ironic that here, water would be contaminated in return for gold?
- … that it doesn’t matter if this is the biggest gold deposit in Europe, perhaps the entire world. We can still leave the gold where it is.
- … this comment from a reader, to one of the articles I’ve read – this should sooth the fever: “Gold is a whimsical alloy, other than a super conductor and bling it is useless, overvalued and overspeculated. … You can’t eat it, you can’t grow it, you can’t get enough of it to make it worth the destruction it causes.”
Gold fever – a global problem
This kind of gold fever is a global problem. If you want to support an independent documentary film about the gold fever in Corcoesto in Galicia (I wrote about it here), pop over at goteo.org and support this project NOW. The project description is in Spanish, but I’m sure google translate will be sufficient for you to get the idea. You have until 21 September and remember: a small contribution is better than no contribution at all.
Raise your hands if you one day (just like me) would love to walk through the ancient mine galleries of Roșia Montană!
Raise your hands if you agree that gold is overvalued bling.
Raise your hands if you agree that cultural heritage is worth more than all the gold in the world.
To the people of Roșia Montană
I wish the people of Roșia Montană the best of luck, whatever your position is in this conflict. You seem to have been pulled into a drama bigger than yourself, with a plot so polluted that there is no return. May there be a way for you all to manouver safely out of this conflict, find the way forward, and live happily, ever after.