Monday, September 23, 2013

Thousands of Romanians form human chain to protest gold mine project

AFP - Thousands of Romanians formed a human chain Saturday around parliament to protest against a Canadian company's plan to open Europe's largest gold mine in a picturesque Transylvanian village.

The chain stretched seven kilometres around the parliament building in capital Bucharest, with protesters chanting "United we can save Rosia Montana", the village where Gabriel Resources is hoping to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver.

Critics warn that hundreds of families would be forced to move if the plan were to go ahead, and that four mountain tops could be destroyed.

"Only pressure on the streets can force the politicians to stop this project which is very dangerous for the environment," said Stefania Iordache, a retiree at the protest.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta's centre-right government last month submitted a bill to parliament that would clear the way for the open-cast mine, angering the population and sparking the biggest protests in Romania since the 1990s.

The bill would make it easier for the company to expropriate property and obtain certain permits from local authorities.

Under pressure from weeks of street protests, the government early this week delayed a parliamentary vote on the bill until November after Ponta agreed to set up a committee to examine the project.

The Canadian company promises 900 jobs in the 16-year extraction phase and says the mine would "provide substantial economic, environmental, cultural and social benefits to the region and... the local community".

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