Romanian Government’s U-turn on gold mining project leaves many baffled

Romanian Government’s U-turn on gold mining project leaves many baffled


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

A statement today by the Romanian PM Victor Ponta who said the gold mining project at Rosia Montana is closed has left many bewildered since the decision comes shortly after the government passed a decree supporting the controversial mining project which has ignited the largest civil movement in post-communist Romania.

“I think that basically the project is closed now” PM Ponta said shortly after his ruling ally, Crin Antonescu, the lead of the Liberal party, publicly expressed his party’s opposition to the mining project. Antonescu’s stance came shortly before a vote in the Parliament on the mining project and left Ponta’s social-democrats in minority in this dispute, especially since the main opposition party, the democrat-liberals, also voiced its concern about Rosia Montana and warned it would not back the project.

“Since there already is a parliamentary majority against, the project will be rejected. We will all probably pay and it is fair to mention this. We are looking at a whole procedure, started ten years ago, and of course it would have been better to close in time” Ponta added, referring to damages the Canadian mine operator, Gabriel Resources, may ask for.

The company warned it would so if the project is rejected. “If the draft legislation is rejected then the Company will assess all possible actions open to it, including he formal notification of its intentions to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties” the Gabriel Resources has reacted today.

Ponta’s unexpected reaction today, just when the Romanian Parliament was readying to debate the mining project, comes days after massive streets protests in Bucharest and other large cities in Romania against the cyanide based mining project in Western Carpathians which sparked the largest civil campaign in post-communist Romania. Antonescu’s sudden opposition to the project, despite him saying nothing on 27 August when Ponta’s government officially backed the project, has provoked the sternest crisis in the social-liberal ruling coalition and forced Ponta to back down.

“He did not consult me, it was a surprise for me” Ponta admitted today, referring to Antonescu’s statement this morning which left him in defensive. Antonescu had said earlier the mining project has divided the Romanian society. “The country cannot be governed from the street, but we cannot govern ignoring the street” Antonescu said, a day after a week long anti-mining protests gained intensity.