Gold has been mined in the small Romanian town of Rosia Montana for over 2,000 years. But a new mine is dividing the town’s population into two bitter factions.
Supporters say the Rosia Montana Gold Corp.’s gold mine will create 3,000 jobs and create an infrastructure that will be used for a long-term tourism industry. But detractors claim the cyanide used in gold mining would pose enormous human health and environmental risks, while the digging could destroy precious archeological remains.
Romania is home to some of the world’s oldest human fossil remains. The opposition is pushing to have the site listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mine has already displaced locals and groundwork has involved destroying at least 140 homes. But one of the mine’s workers sums up the feelings many have about their job prospects in Rosia Montana: “It is a dead zone…. I would like the project to start tomorrow, regardless of how dangerous it might be. Having to live in poverty is even more dangerous.”
The Rosia Montana Gold Corp. is owned 80% by a Canadian firm, while 20% is held by the Romanian state. The Romanian government has supported the mine until now, but violent protests against austerity measures swept a new prime minister to power in Romania today.
All eyes are now on Romania’s Ministry of the Environment, who must make the final call on the project. Last week, Greenpeace protestors stormed his office and shackled themselves in place to protest the mine.
Follow the link below to hear the story from Deutsche Welle Radio’s Tom Wilson, who interviews families that have been torn in two over the controversy