Monday, September 20, 2010

Romanians seek halt to Canadian gold mine project


BUCHAREST — Opponents of a Canadian gold mine project in a Romanian village on Saturday called on the Romanian culture ministry to save a threatened ancient site in the area.

"The universal value of the Rosia Montana site and especially of the Roman mining tunnels of the Carnic mountains has been acknowledged by numerous specialists around the world," local NGO Alburnus Maior said.

"Issuing an archaeological discharge certificate would lead to the destruction of the site and would seriously alter this cultural heritage," the NGO added.

Alburnus Maior says it represents hundreds of locals opposed to the open-cast gold mine project by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), the daughter company of Canadian firm Gabriel Resources -- which holds 80 percent of RMGC.

RMGC recently sent a request to the Romanian culture ministry for a new archaeological discharge for Carnic, one of the mountains where it intends to extract gold.

A previous certificate, given in 2004, was cancelled in court.

The National Commission for Archaeology is to look into the new demand though no date has been set for a decision.

Rosia Montana's green hills are said to hold more than 300 tonnes of gold, one of the biggest deposits in Europe.

For years, archaeologists and historians from around the world have said that the mine would damage one of the most extensive remaining networks of Roman mining tunnels -- an allegation rejected by RMGC.

The International Council for Monuments and Sites, one of the three formal advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee, recently supported moves to put Rosia Montana on Romania's tentative list for UNESCO, a first step in the long process towards a World Heritage listing.

Gabriel Resources obtained a concession license to exploit the local gold in 1999. More than a decade later, the firm has still not been granted all the required environmental and archaeological permits.

Gabriel Resources said on Friday that a review to determine the environmental impact of the Rosia Montana gold mine project would restart under the supervision of the Romanian environment ministry.

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