Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Romanian villagers resist mine owners' plans

Published Aug 31, 2007 6:56 PM

Rosia Montana is a small village in the nation of Romania. At one time it had jobs for all. Healthcare was provided to all citizens free of charge. There was full employment and many in the town worked in the local mines. Life was not perfect, but the economy was planned under the leadership of the Romanian Communist Party and was not dictated by the profit motive.

This is not the case anymore. Now the people of Rosia Montana make an average of $3 a day and live in poverty. The main source of income for the people of Romania's countryside is now tourism in the summer and what they can fish or grow for themselves in the other seasons.

In these circumstances, the Gabriel Mining Co. has decided to destroy the town of Rosia Montana and make it the site of a mile-wide gold mine.

Gabriel Mining, which is based in Toronto, Canada, is owned by Frank Timis. According to Dundee Securities, a financial securities firm, he was twice convicted of possessing heroin with intent to sell. (earthworksaction. org) But then Timis realized that, under the new capitalist system now installed in Eastern Europe, he could make more money exploiting natural resources than selling drugs. He now owns oil wells in Europe and some diamond mines in Africa—an industry known for its horrific conditions.

Timis has now turned his eyes toward the village of Rosia Montana. The soil there contains what is left of a gold vein that once went through the village. The project calls for destroying the houses, shops and schools so the mining company can use the deadly chemical cyanide to leach even little gold particles from the soil and turn it into jewelry for the wealthy of this world.

In the path of this proposed mine are not only 900 homes but also nine cemeteries and eight churches, motivating even the Catholic Church to raise its voice against this project.

The people of Romania witnessed an environmental and economic disaster in 2000 when cyanide used in mining spilled into the Danube River, killing all the fish in 250 miles of the river and its tributaries. Besides destroying an important food supply, the poisonous chemicals contaminated the drinking water of 2.5 million people.

The fish population of Romania has declined rapidly thanks to pollution caused by new privately owned industries. The Romanian government is considering banning fishing altogether, which would make it a crime to do what so many Romanians now have to do merely to survive.

The State Environmental Resource Center of Wisconsin says there is no safe way to use cyanide for mining. So what does Gabriel Mining propose to do with all the cyanide-laced waste it will produce from this operation? It will build a 1,482-acre "storage pond" in the nearby valley of Corna, where 196.4 million tons of cyanide-laced waste will be stored behind a cement dam.

In the new Eastern Europe, the ideology of communism is said to have been "refuted" and profit is now in command. There are no state committees made of workers and peasants to regulate the activities of mining companies. Those who would work in the proposed mine, if ever built, would have no say in how their workplace was run, or what actions the company would take.

Interviews with people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are beginning to show that, while the socialized economy that once existed there may have been greatly flawed, the return of these nations to the rule of private ownership over society's wealth has made life much worse for the majority of the people.

Now a coalition of groups seeks to make sure that Gabriel Mining's plans for Rosia Montana are not put into practice.

"It's been six years they've been terrorizing us into moving," a resident of Rosia Montana told Businesswire. "But we didn't go, and we won't go."

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