BUCHAREST — Romania's government on Tuesday approved a draft law granting national interest status to a Canadian gold mine project in Transylvania despite protests from historians and environmentalists.
The draft law, which will have to get approval from Parliament, declares the mine project of "exceptional national interest" and will facilitate expropriation procedures.
It also brings the royalty rate for the Romanian state from a current 4.0 percent to 6.0 percent while its stake in the company exploiting the mine would gradually rise from a current 20 percent to 25 percent.
Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), controlled by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources, plans to open an open-cast gold mine in the village of Rosia Montana, in the heart of Transylvania, a region praised by Prince Charles for its stunning nature.
The village is said to hold one of the biggest gold deposits in Europe and the company has promised 800 to 900 jobs during the 16-year extraction period.
The project has triggered fierce opposition as the mine would use 12,000 tonnes of cyanide a year in a leaching process, 12 times the amount used in gold mining in the whole of Europe, according to 2011 industry figures.
Four mountains surrounding the village will be partially destroyed in the process and Roman mining galleries unique in Europe will be damaged, archeologists and historians have warned.
"Democracy and human rights are not respected in Romania but we will fight", Eugen David, a local farmer and head of a group opposing the project, told AFP.
Opponents denounced the fact that the government did not publish the controversial draft law on the agenda of the cabinet meeting nor on its website prior to its decision.
Gabriel Resources did not comment the government move.
Gabriel Resources acquired a mining licence for Rosia Montana in 1999.
Since then, it has been waiting for a crucial permit from the ministry of environment. The government has not said how advanced the permit application was.