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Interview :: Environment
Cyanide and government corruption
06 Jan 2004
Modified: 03:05:58 PM
200 000 tons of cyanide will be dumped at Rosia Montana (plus 30 other densely populated areas), by Canadian mining company Gold Corporation, in the water, with the collusion of a corrupted government. Translator notes at the end. Here is the translation of an amazing interview. Visit http://www.rosiamontana.org for more.
The British journalist Stephanie Roth is an ecological activist. She studied International Relations and then made her master in Philosophy, at Cambridge. She worked for a wile at "The Ecologist" in London and two years ago she came in Romania. She came just in time to save Sighisoara [TN: the only medieval city still inhabited, in Europe] planned then to be transformed in Dracula Park. Then she embarked on the fight against the Rosia Montana mining project - the reason she stays in Romania nowadays. The dimensions of the corruption surrounding this savage project intrigued her. She realized the neocolonial immorality of the Canadian Company and the tacit accept of the Romanian authorities. Since living at Rosia, she understood how the society is ruled. She had to endure calumnies, threats and physical aggressions coming from "sympathizers" of the company and from some local authorities. But she kept informing the world about the ecological and human catastrophe shielded by an illusory economic development.


"Gold Corporation obtains money by selling illusions"

FA: You left Europe to get some "practical experience" in ecological journalism and arrived at Rosia. Is this experience relevant to you?
SR: When I came in Rosia and peoples told me about the foolishness of this project, I decided to stay to help them establish a strategy to resist the extraordinary pressures of the mining company. I joined the "Alburnus Maior" organization, formed by peoples that do not want to be displaced by the mine. Their cause is now mine. I realized that we couldn't expect any help from authorities because corruption reached the most upper levels. There were Ministers, State secretaries, Parliamentarians who look at the issues at stake with an "airplane level perspective" of from their own pocket perspectives. My conclusion was that we need big help from abroad. We started with the Mondial Bank (MB). Alburnus Maior went in Washington and showed what the truth is. The association participated also to an IFC - the investitions branch - meeting and showed that MB's prestige is affected by the company's actions - the company was pretending she was acting according to BM directives, as to force displacement of the population - which is unwilling to be displaced. MB, is now sensitive to investitions surrounded by ecological and social scandals and so, the MB renounced to finance the project. The effect was a domino one, banks from Europe, America and Canada refused to finance Gabriel Resources - the company owning the Gold Corporation project.

FA: There were many illegalities committed by Gold Corporation, even since its arrival. Which of those shocked you?
SR: Starting the displacement of the population, without having the Environment Study approved. Then the discrepancy between declarations and reality. For example, in beautiful 3D images shown on the company's web site and before the Toronto Stock Exchange, or before some governmental agencies - whenever the company presents its mining project, there is no inhabited and protected area shown. But in their propaganda at the local level, the company says nobody will be forced to leave and that a protected area will exist -as a mining museum, etc. [NT: see my foot notes]. So, the company knows that in the end, nothing will be left at Rosia, in spite of the soporific declarations it makes today.
Double standard is one of this company's characteristics. For internal propaganda, Gold Corporation is bragging about the taxes it will pay - hundreds of millions of dollars that will pour into local and governmental budgets. But in Toronto, stock investors are told that investition is shielded from taxes because in an underdeveloped area, and as such exempted from taxes. When are they telling the truth? They cannot tell the truth by definition - the only thing they can do is to cosmetize it, by calling it "regional economical development".
When they are questioned about the illegal explosions on Carnic mountain - where recently have been discovered mining galleries since the roman antiquity and, as such an archeological permit is needed, which they do not have - they claim innocence, saying it must be some state owned company. But the state owned company transferred his exploiting license, arguably in an illegal way, towards Gold Corporation.

FA: The Minister for the Environment, Petre Lificiu, said that it is legal for Gold Corporation to buy peoples' houses. What is the truth?
SR: According to the law, a project has to obtain an environment permit and a social permit BEFORE STARTING. Only then negotiations to displace population can start - buy houses, land, etc. But, Rosia is like a no-man-land, a new savage west. Cowboys are here because of cheap gold, like in good old days California and victims are the same - local population. They came with money and money gives them ALL the rights. Most of the money comes from the Stock Exchange, by selling illusions, kind of "Saloon Las Vegas".
Even today, after 100 years, US and Canada have to deal with the consequences of the gold rush, and nobody seems to have learned any lesson from.


"The monster we have at Rosia has grown out of lies and silence"

FA: in spite of banks' opposition, of local population opposition, of experts' opposition, the Company keeps pushing?
SR: The Company knows that MB has no control mechanism to oppose them. They pretend to respect the BM directives but they lie by omission - it is all about what they do not want to say. That's how this monster has grown - out of lies and silence. There is collusion between the Company and the government. While the company lies by omission, the government is silent - from this vacuum the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation is feed. This corporation is the cocoon of a company without history, with no mining experience, no credentials and functioning on the principle of minimum investment and maximum profit. If laws would simply be applied - because there are laws - the Company would vanish.

FA: A state secretary said recently that the government is paid by the MB to close mines. Did you heard?
SR: The way this government is using taxpayers' money is simply incredible. On one hand, it takes loans of hundreds of millions to close soviet style mines, on the other hand it sells the mountains to dubious mining corporations, which will open way more dangerous mines than the old ones. Hence it encouraged cyanide based mining, thus forcing the taxpayers pay twice: first the loan and then for the ecological disasters, after all gold and silver is gone. Of course, the government loves pocketing UE funds for durable development.
The paradox is deeper: Frank Timis, the controversial founder of "Gabriel Resources" and of "European Gold Fields" (EGF) has concesionated an enormous surface from Zlatna, Certej, Sacarimb, down to Alba-Iulia. Once again, this is a densely populated area, with roman archeological treasures. Hence Rosia is only the beginning - over 30 mining licenses have been issued. Do you think Romanian know about? Do you think they agree with? The monster has many heads, you cut one, another one rise. Foolishness.

FA: The Prime Minister said he opposes the project
SR: I know the Romanian politicians. When the parliamentary commission came to Rosia to fill a report - which has never been discussed in Parliament - we were given 5 minutes to explain our position. It was unbelievable. Alburnus peoples were respectuous of the commission and exposed their arguments rationally and professionally. But the parliamentarians were so arrogant, as I never have seen in my life someone. The PDS' Sassu, a veterinary came to decide on a miming problem, was siting like a modern gringo, with a cigarillo, disgusted and playing deaf. As a politician, his wage is paid by Rosia peoples, among others. [NT side note: this reminds me of a PNTCD politician, which, when asked about taxpayers money by a journalist, answered: "what the fuck do you care?"]

FA: After a long silence, the Orthodox Church refused to sell cemeteries and churches to the Company. Did you expect it?
SR: Nobody expected such a position. The Company even was stupefied - they declared that had an agreement with the Patriarch - as to keep the Church not getting involved. Truth is, this decision is an important precedent.
I am confident that, having the help of the civil society, of the Romanian Academy, Churches, NGOs, international solidarity, Romanians will unite to save Rosia.

The original can be viewed at:
http://www.formula-as.ro/articol.php?nrrev=593&&codcap=44&&idart=4790


Quick overview of the other article:
http://www.formula-as.ro/articol.php?nrrev=593&&codcapp=11&&numecapp=Acc
-PD politician and Mayor of Bucharest, Traian Basescu, along with Liberal Radu Berceanu (the one directly responsible for the Rosia problem) are advocating the project
-Carnic mountain is currently destroyed in spite of recent important archeological discoveries: 5 km of mining galleries dating from the Roman Empire period
-Gold Corporation is illegally buying land and properties from the peoples, forcing them to leave. Among others, graves are bought for about $1000 a piece.
-AT Bucium, RECENT EXPLORATIONS MADE BY THE COMPANY POISONED FOUNTAINS AND RIVERS, THE WHOLE VILLAGE IS NOW WITHOUT WATER (Note: exploitation has not started !)
-about 1050 personalities of the scientific world, from all over the world are calling for the government to stop the project
- Mondial Bank specialists, the European Rights Institute of Viena, Mondial Council of Monuments (ICOMOS), the European Parliament, the European Commission, Organization "Operation Villages Roumains" from Belgia, "Greenpeace", "Friends of the Earth" - among many others - are opposing the project



Translator Notes:
1) Quick overview of the consequences of this mining project
2) It already happened
3) Worldwide NGOs can testify before the commission
4) Advice sought


1) Quick overview of the consequences of this mining project
-wipe out five mountains flat to leave in place a hole 360 meters deep
-displace the human population from this area - one of the villages os 1871 years old
-detonate 150 tons of dynamite daily
-leave behind a 700 ha artificial lake full with cyanide. 203200 tons of cyanide will make it into the phreatic water
-poison with cyanide about 1600 ha. , in open air
-leave behind 300 millions of tons of sterile.
-500 square km. will be destroyed.

2) It already happened
Australian mining company Esmeralda Exploration spilled on 31 January 2000 about 100 000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water into the Danube river system.
(source: Mining Ombudsman Annual Report 2001-2002, among others). The deadly wave spilled death in 4 countries. Currently Romania faces lawsuits totalizing billions of dollars for damages, the company vanished, the exploitation continues. ROSIA IS WAY MUCH BIGGER AN EXPLOITATION!

3) Worldwide NGOs can testify before the commission
The PHARE commission for the Canadian project at Rosia stated that ONG/NGO organizations, from all over the world, that are taking an interest in this projected disaster can register with the commission to have their voice heard. Among the issues to be evaluated: mining industry, social, environment, biodiversity, water, legal aspects, cultural aspects, etc. The issues at stake will decide the future of the mining industry in all Europe! All you have to do is to send a letter (preferably with confirmation of reception, because there are chances someone might prefer to ignore it), stating that you want to register for the consultation with the commission to:

Dimitrie Clepan Sef Agentia de Protectie
a Mediului Alba Strada Lalelelor Nr.7B Tel/Fax: 0258
813 248/813290
e-mail: ipmalba (at) alba.astral.ro,apm_alba (at) hotmail.com (the email is likely to be ignored)

Please coordinate with Alburnus: send also a copy of your letter to Alburnus Maior, (again to make sure the government responsibles will receive it): alburnus_major2002 AT yahoo.com
There are reports that the commision is ignoring requests.


4) Advice sought
On a personal note (not speaking on behalf of Rosia peoples, or Alburnus Maior), I think Rosia is only a phenomena - the deep cause being that the Romanian government is so corrupted that they are treating peoples like animals - sell them, buy them.
It would be interesting to know if legal actions as to keep them internationally accountable for the consequences - as government, political parties and individuals - can be started, because the decisions they are taking are making millions of victims (literally). If someone can offer advice, please contact me.
See also:
http://www.rosiamontana.org

This work is in the public domain
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