When it comes to cyanide, less is more

3 07 2012

Very recently, on June 26th, I participated to an event[1], inoffensive at first glance, where Romanian MEP Victor Bostinaru was launching the volume “Rosia Montana in European debate”[2]. This volume integrates several expressed views regarding the mining project proposed in Rosia Montana, most of them against the project.

The reason I choose to write these lines is both sad and revolting and it worth reflection.  The points of view expressed by the guests at this event are no less than alarming. Not so much as for their content, extremely defective and redundant as a matter of fact, but for the political message that they transmit regarding the opportunity of cyanide exploitations in Europe and, implicit, Romania.

But I shall start with the story as it happened. The MEPs from the Social Democrat Group within the European Parliament were joined by the Mr. Cornel Nistorescu and Mr. geologist Stefan Marincea.

Marita ULVSKOG, the vice-president of the Social Democrat Group within the EP, and, as I understood, former Environmental Minister in Sweden, has been one of the first guests to take the floor. Mrs. ULVSKOG is originated in the Northern area of Sweden. Only hearing about this place I start getting nervous.

Mining – cyanide – Europe – Guatemala – Suedia – radical ecologists.  For sure, these words used in the “condemnation act” and referring most of the times to the opponents of cyanide based mining in Europe sound very familiar to you. Mining companies such as Gabriel Resources frames those trying to show that cyanide based mining is to be found in Europe. That radical ecologists lye when they say cyanide is forbidden in Europe. That cyanide is best-available-practice here and not just an extermination product conceived by mining companies for savage exploitations in Guatemala.

But today, Gabriel is not the one present here. According to those claimed by Mrs. ULVSKOG, cyanide based mining in North Sweden is a completely harmless process for the environment, the people, everything is open and transparent and the entire community is content. Rosia Montana wouldn’t be the same because, and pay attention, it is too big. Not any other word about concrete comparisons between the two places.  How far is situated the nearest house? Had to be relocated a community in order to realize the mine? Was necessary to impact archaeological vestiges for the exploitation? How much forest had to be cut? How many mountains had been erased? When was the mine authorized?

Instead, in order to strengthen the first example, the second one comes immediately. It’s not only Sweden, but also Finland. This time, MEP Liisa JAAKONSAARI from the same parliamentary group presents as case study the Kittila mine – the place where cyanide , environmental protection, the profit from gold, the syndicalist’ and local authorities’ content conspired to bring Europe a development model of this industry.

We have a Chitila too, not far from Bucharest, so each of us with his own Kittila, MEP Victor Bostinaru breaks the ice with a joke after the presentation. I will not entirely reproduce the joke, but I will reproduce his declaration of intentions: „Now I can confirm to you that an ASD delegation together with our the environmental minister Rovana Plumb we shall pay a visit to Kittila in Findland to take at home the expertize and the knowledge of how it can be implemented and then to become the standard of developing the mining industry in Romania”.

I can now understand why Mrs. Rovana Plumb (Romanian Environmental Minister) declared that she won’t take any decision towards Rosia Montana until elections! Because all of her time and resources are going to be swallowed up by this working visit where she will achieve expertize and information on how to make cyanide based mining as Finnish do.

However, the debate continues with the presentation that follows the most the political message of the event. PhD Geologist Stefan Marincea, scientific researcher and former General Director of Romania’s Geological Institute comes to presentation.

Obviously, the most important aspect to show in introduction is that we have the potential to “reach” the previously acclaimed standards. “Romania is the country with the biggest Europe’s gold reserves” and “68 gold deposits were highlighted within the Golden Quadrate in the Apuseni Mountains.”, Mr. Marincea shows us in the beginning of the presentation.

In his vision, the project developed at Certej by European Goldfields is the state-of-the-art project. Why? Because it proposes cyaniding only a part of the extracted mineral, the rest of it following a flotation of the sulphides process, a Greek inspiration technology. European Goldfields modified a project in Stratoni, Greece, in order to “be compatible with the sustainable development spirit promoted by the European Union”. Other reason is that Certej is smaller than Rosia Montana. Taking a look again on the environmental permit released by the Environmental Protection Regional Agency Timisoara for the exploitation at Certej, I read that this project has a total surface no less than 456 ha. Is it a lot? Is it small?

Obviously, Mr. Marincea’s intervention is only preparing the ground for the core of the communication: the project from Rosia Montana must not be realized in the actual proposed form as it would destroy the development chances of smaller gold extraction projects that could be realized in Romania! Declared as it is, without any explanation about how exactly it would kill them.

I try to get into my senses after this shocking and extremely paradoxical declaration and rationally read its meaning. The proposed scenario is to have cyanide based mining in all Apuseni Mountains, but not starting with Rosia Montana. What does it frightens a cyanide mining proponent when coming about Rosia Montana project? Is it the scenario that once functioning, at Rosia Montana mine could never appear accidents and severe pollution cases? Or that the authorities would demonstrate their high incapacity to monitor, sanction and repair the prejudice done to the environment? Indeed, these realities would cast the entire cyanide based mining industry into a negative light and would raise the “risk” of adopting a harsher legislation in the domain. Eventually, the disastrous cyanide accident from Baia Mare was the one to inspire the European Directive regarding waste management coming from mining industry and not the happy Swedish and Finnish models.

So, the concept proposed by geologist Stefan Marincea: small is beautiful. The conclusion of his presentation, as I perceive it, is that the “gigantic” project from Rosia Montana must be readjusted in order to enter the pattern of small and harmless projects that use cyanide.

This is the direction in Europe, the researcher says. Greece will do the same, Spain probably. Romania cannot remain with all that gold in the ground. Unfortunately, the recording of Mr. Marincea presentation posted on YouTube stops exactly in the middle of the presentation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sBI1ZqNSt94).

But the launched volume contains the detailed position of the geologist with the conclusion that <<”Zero cyanide in mining industry” is an option that would destroy junior companies and small range mining projects, for the simple reason that no medium or small deposit of disseminated ore cannot be efficiently exploited in Europe without cyanide by junior companies in economical efficiency conditions.>>

Behind these interventions, I find, the obvious, a very strong lobby from several companies with imminent interests to obtain more exploitation licenses for gold deposits in Romania, basing on technologies a little modified comparing with the one proposed in Rosia Montana, so that the political decision is easier.

This way, even the voices against the exploitations would dissipate, the pressure on Government would rise even more – if it still was necessary – from local authorities that suddenly won’t be able to attract money from the local budget except from mining, and also pressure on the legislative to weaken the authorizing standards for mining projects, so that an authorization process won’t last anymore 15 years.

I believe in civil society’s capacity to react, even at this scale of events. But we need sustained and very strategic efforts to monitor the exploitation licenses award, to make the approval mechanisms transparent, to practical support the direct affected people in order to express from a very early stage of proposals and, of course, to publicly campaign and to initiate well documented and efficient legal steps. We need everyone to get involved: the communities, the nongovernmental organizations, the specialists, the public persons, the Romanians in the country and abroad.

I believe that the chance for Rosia Montana it consisted exactly in this. This chance is deserved by each of the 68 communities in Romania and other communities across Europe that could follow its path.

Stefania Simion

Activist in Save Rosia Montana Campaign

stefania [at] ngo . ro

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When it comes to cyanide, less is more | Re.Generation




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