rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Of vampires and a zombie mine in Transylvania

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Rosia Montana Valley. Photo: BAS Photography on Pbase.

Guest blog by Payal Sampat, International Campaigns Director for EARTHWORKS and originally posted on their EARTHblog.

Transylvania, Romania, is known for its fictional vampires -- this is the region where Bram Stoker set his classic vampire novel, Dracula, in 1897. Over a century later, the region is threatened not by fictional vampires but a very real -- and far scarier -- monster: the Rosia Montana mine (translated by Google).

For the past 15 years, a junior, inexperienced Canadian mining company called Gabriel Resources has been attempting to construct a giant gold mine in the picturesque Transylvanian town of Rosia Montana. If built, it would be Europe’s largest open-pit mine, using cyanide to separate gold from ore. Mining experts have cautioned about the risks to people and the environment from the 250 million tons of contaminated mine tailings, much which would be stored in the densely populated neighbouring Corna valley. According to geophysicist Dr. David Chambers, if the tailings dam were to fail in the event of heavy rains, landslide or earthquake, toxic mining residues could be released into the Abrud River. Rosia Montana is a proposed UNESCO World Heritage site due to the archeological significance of the region.

Gabriel Resources has no track record with mining -- it has never operated a mine before -- and has spent 15 years and $550 million with little success in getting its project greenlighted. The project has faced widespread opposition, and prominent financiers, including the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, have declined to fund the project due to concerns about pollution and relocation.

The opposition isn’t surprising, given the environmental concerns about the project, as well as Romania’s less than stellar history with gold mining. In the year 2000, the Baia Mare mine spilled cyanide-laced wastes into the Tisza and Danube Rivers, contaminating the drinking water supplies of 2.5 million people and killing 1200 tons of fish.

Gabriel Resources applied for a permit to develop the Rosia Montana mine in 1999 -- but it has yet to be granted, 14 years later. Why are we still talking about it, you might ask?

The zombie lives to see another day

The new Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, wants to bring this zombie mine-that-won’t-die to life. He’s seeking “national priority status” for the $7.5 billion Rosia Montana project (along with fracking -- but that’s a story for another day), declaring it in the national interest. It helps that the Romanian government holds a nearly 20 per cent stake in the project alongside Gabriel Resources’ 80 per cent.

Politicians and others may feel that poisoning a few small towns is in the national interest if it fills government coffers. (Romania is one of the most corrupt nations in the EU, according to Transparency International.) But not everyone agrees -- in particular, many of those whose homes and health are most at risk from the mine.

There have been massive protests against the mine in Romania in the past few days and weeks, with thousands taking to the streets with signs saying “Save Rosia Montana” and “Cyanide Kills.” And today, Sunday, September 8th, protesters will march outside Romanian embassies around the world in solidarity with the Save Rosia Montana movement.

Apparently Transylvania doesn’t have vampires -- it just has zombie mines that won’t die.

For more information:

Alburnus Maior: www.rosiamontana.org

Save Rosia Montana: rosiamontana.ngo.ro

Earthworks’ Rosia Montana page: www.earthworksaction.org

Goldman Prize: www.goldmanprize.org

Rosia Montana Valley. Photo: BAS Photography on Pbase.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.