BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romania's culture minister came under pressure to quit on Monday over his approval of a Canadian gold mine conservationists say threatens unique Roman ruins.
Daniel Barbu supported a draft bill that would allow Canadian company Gabriel Resources to mine for gold in Rosia Montana, a village in the heart of Transylvania.
The project has sparked public fury, with thousands of Romanians taking to the streets on Sunday in a fourth week of protests.
On Monday the Romanian archaeologists' association, ARA, said Rosia Montana was "one of the most important cultural sites in Europe and the world", and called for Barbu to go.
If the open-cast gold mine plan goes ahead, "80 percent of the Roman-era mining galleries will be destroyed by blasts," said ARA President Stefan Balici.
Nearly 100 historians, archaeologists and architects have signed a petition calling on Barbu to step down and accusing him of being "a danger to Romania's culture and national identity."
Barbu gave his green light to the draft law adopted last month by Romania's centre-left government which cleared the way for the Canadian project.
A recent interview in which he said mining "posed no problem" to Rosia Montana added to the ire of conservationists, who say four mountains will be levelled and irreversible damage done to unique Roman-era mining galleries.
Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver over 16 years.
It also promises a shower of benefits for Romania's economy, including 2,300 jobs in the construction phase and up to 900 during the 16 years the mine operates.