Romanian Unesco site proposal may be halted to allow gold mining – by Kit Gillet (The Guardian – August 31, 2017)

Romania’s prime minister has suggested his government will withdraw an application to have the Roman gold-mining area of Roșia Montană declared a Unesco world heritage site, potentially reviving controversial plans to resume mining.

Roșia Montană sits on Europe’s largest-known gold deposits – an estimated 314 tonnes of gold as well as 1,500 tonnes of silver – and has been at the centre of a drawn-out fight between the Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources and Romanian activists.

To extract the gold, the mining project would involve the heavy use of cyanide, turning a nearby valley into a tailings dam holding up to 250m tonnes of cyanide-laced waste. It would also destroy four mountain peaks, nearby villages, and a series of 2,000-year-old Roman mining tunnels. Three weeks of mass protests in 2013 in effect halted the mine’s development, with the government withdrawing its support in 2014.

During a televised discussion, the prime minister, Mihai Tudose, questioned the previous government’s decision to apply to Unesco for the site to be given world heritage status, with its impact on Romania’s ability to exploit the mineral resources in the future. He added that reversing the process now that the nomination had been submitted could prove hard.

“We will try to withdraw it, to write that we no longer support the same point of view, which will put us in a very strange position with the international organisations,” he said. “If things remain final, it’s all over.”

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