Sunday marked the sixth global day of protest against the development of large-scale mining in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania. Scores of people turned out for a lively protest in London directly opposite the parliament buildings at Westminster.
In the heart of the Apuseni mountains in Transylvania, north-western Romania, a Canadian mining company has ambitious plans to develop Rosia Montana, Europe’s largest gold deposit. Yukon-based Gabriel Resources owns an 80 percent share in Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, the company who hope to develop the site into Romania’s ‘first modern mine.’
In early September, draft legislation that would declare the Rosia Montana mine “a special national interest” passed to the Romanian parliament for debate. If passed into law, the bill would significantly accelerate development of the mining project
Tens of thousands of Romanians subsequently took to the streets in protest, in what has been called the largest youth-led protest movement since the 1989 revolution. In response to such widespread dissent, Romania’s president and prime minister have both conceded that the project will likely not be approved.
A special committee is now examining the draft law, a process that will last until at least November. Those who oppose the mine are staging ongoing protests that will continue until the project is officially laid to rest.
Solidarity actions around the Rosia Montana mining issue have been taking place across the globe. This past Sunday, people gathered in front of parliament buildings at Westminster in London to highlight their strong opposition to the mine and to call for an EU ban on cyanide.
Passersby were greeted with chants of ‘Our voices say worldwide, we do not want cyanide’ and ‘We support Rosia Montana.’ Passing cars were encouraged to ‘honk if you hate cyanide.’
As dusk fell, dozens of candles were lit before the group staged a mass drinking of ‘cyanide’ before falling to the ground en masse. A few minutes later everyone arose from their death-like poses, declaring, “United we save Rosia Montana!”
Small crosses were erected that included the details of cyanide mining accidents across the globe, including:
- 1996 – a cyanide tailings flood at a copper, gold and silver mine leaked 3-4 million tonnes of tailings into nearby waterways in the Philippines
- 2000 – a tailings dam burst and spilled 100,00 cubic metres of cyanide-contaminated water over farmland and into a nearby river in Baia Mare, Romania
- 2002 – 24,000 gallons of cyanide solution were spilled at the Twin Creeks mine in Nevada, USA
- 2011 – cyanide spill at a gold-processing plant pollutes a local waterway, forcing school closures and emergency water deliveries in Kazakhstan
The 2000 cyanide leak in Romania has been described as the worst environmental disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986. Clearly, Romanians have not yet forgotten the devastating consequences that mining can wreak on the environment.
One sign at the protest in London served as a potent reminder:
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will we find that money cannot be eaten