Europe’s Biggest Planned Gold Mine May Face Romanian Referendum – by Irina Savu (Bloomberg News – September 2, 2013)

Romania’s President proposed a vote on allowing development of Europe’s largest gold mine project following protests against technology that made the country home to one of the continent’s worst environmental disasters.

A day after thousands of demonstrators rallied against the use of cyanide in gold mining, President Traian Basescu said he may call a referendum next year on the Rosia Montana mine. That may delay the project, for which Canada-based Gabriel Resources Ltd. (GBU) said it could “hopefully” receive approval by November.

The rallies followed the government’s unveiling last week of a draft law to raise the state’s stake in the project, rekindling anger over the 2000 Baia Mare spill. Listed by the United Nations Environment Programme alongside Chernobyl as one of Europe’s major human-caused disasters, the spill happened when a dam holding back mine debris burst, flooding the Somes, Tiza and Danube rivers with tens of thousands of tons of cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water.

“The biggest scare about the Rosia Montana mine is the cyanide process, which should have been discussed with experts,” Basescu said on newspaper Adevarul’s website. He said “society is rightfully reacting to this” because Romania had suffered from the Baia Mare spill.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta showed similar support, saying in a televised speech today from Bucharest that a referendum was “a good idea,” after the government had finished the “technical negotiations” on the project. The project is subject to a final decision by parliament, Ponta said.

Gold Reserves

Last month, Gabriel Resources said if parliament adopted the bill — which increases the state’s stake in the mine to 25 percent and raises its royalties by half to 6 percent — in a session that begins today, it would be able to accelerate its development of Rosia Montana and other mining projects.

Gabriel expects to get parliamentary approval as soon as November, Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Henry said today in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.

“Hopefully it could be a two- to three-month process,” Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Henry said today in a telephone interview. “It’s a little bit undefined.”

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