BUCHAREST — Romanian president Traian Basescu pressed the nation's environment ministry Tuesday to take a rapid decision on a planned Canadian-owned gold mine at Rosia Montana, warning that much was at stake.
"Since 1997, the Romanian authorities have shunned responsibility regarding Rosia Montana," Basescu said after the new environment minister Attila Korodi was sworn in.
"If you think that the mine can work and if you want to do Romania some good by creating jobs, go ahead and give the necessary permit quickly," Basecu urged Korodi.
"If not, just say no to the company, because every day that passes will cost us a lot in an upcoming lawsuit."
Basescu, a staunch supporter of the planned mine, blasted the "cowardice and demagogy" of former environment ministers who have blocked the project so far.
Last week, a Romanian court invalidated a key zoning permit, a serious setback for Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), which is 80 percent owned by the Canadian company Gabriel Resources.
Opponents claim the ruling sent the company back to square one in the permit process. But RMGC claims to hold an earlier "valid and legal" permit.
The firm plans to use cyanide to extract 300 tonnes of gold in the village of Rosia Montana, thought to hold Europe's largest single deposit.
It promises to invest $1.7 billion (1.2 billion euros) and says the mine will respect all European standards on environmental protection.
Environmentalists, archaeologists, historians and international organisations oppose the project however, claiming the mine threatens the environment and priceless Roman-era mining galleries.
Basescu also urged Korodi to examine without delay two other controversial projects: shale gas tapping by US oil giant Chevron and the sale of Cupru Min copper mining company.
"If Romania does not need shale gas let us stop Chevron's plans, if it does not want to exploit copper, let us stop that too," he said in an ironic tone.
Romania cancelled the sale of Cupru Min to Canada's Roman Copper on Friday because it could not obtain financial and environmental commitments, the economy minister said, adding that a new auction would be held.