Thousands protest Romania gold mine plans

AFP-JIJI

An estimated 20,000 Romanians took to the streets Sunday to protest against a Canadian company’s plan to open Europe’s largest gold mine in the heart of Transylvania.

Canadian firm Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tons of gold in Rosia Montana with mining techniques that require the use of thousands of tons of cyanide.

The decision by the center-left government to approve a draft law speeding up the opening of the mine has been the trigger for protests.

In Bucharest, more than 10,000 people marched for several hours in the city center calling for the government’s resignation.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta told Antena 3 TV channel he will “seek dialogue” with the protesters. On Sunday, Ponta went to the planned gold mine site to meet 33 employees of the Rosia Montana Gold Corp. who were refusing to leave a former mining gallery.

The employees fear they will lose their jobs if the project is blocked by lawmakers. Ponta convinced them to stop their protest in the gallery by promising that a special parliamentary committee will be set up to examine the project.

Gabriel Resources, which owns 80 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corp., acquired a mining license in 1999 but has been waiting ever since for a crucial permit from the Environment Ministry.