Tuesday, September 10, 2013

AFP: Romania PM says disputed gold mine bill will be rejected

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said Monday a controversial draft law clearing the way for a Canadian gold mine project in Transylvania will be voted down by parliament.

The acknowledgement came a day after more than 15,000 people took to the streets Sunday for the eighth straight day to protest against the project that will use thousands of tonnes of cyanide to extract the precious metal.

"A majority of lawmakers are opposed to the draft law so it will be rejected," Ponta told reporters.

Canadian company Gabriel Resources, through its 80-percent owned subsidiary Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, plans to open Europe's largest open-cast gold mine in the Transylvanian village of Rosia Montana.

Last month Romania's centre-left government submitted a bill that would it easier for the company to expropriate people's property and granting "exceptional national interest status" to the mine, which aims to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver.

Ponta's surprise announcement followed a statement by Senate speaker Crin Antonescu who said the bill should be spiked.

Antonescu and Ponta are co-presidents of Romania's ruling centre-left coalition USL, but have sometimes taken opposite stands on major issues.

"Since there is a clear majority against this draft law there is no point in protracting things," Ponta stressed, adding that the two houses of parliament will rapidly debate and reject the bill.

"That will be the end of it," he said.

However that does not necessary mean the end of the mine project, which is mostly dependent upon the environment ministry issuing a permit.

Activists worry that the use of cyanide will poison groundwater and open-cast mining will destroy four mountain tops around Rosia Montana and unique Roman mining galleries at the site.

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