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Vesselina Nikolaeva Sofia, Bulgaria

Sleeping gold under the Red mountain
Project info

Europe's largest gold deposits are believed to lie under the ancient village of Rosia Montana in the mountains of western Romania. The gold has been mined for at least two millennia, from the time of Julius Caesar to that of Ceausescu. The name of the village, which means "red mountain", comes from the streams of red water which spring from the mountain, the toxic acid runoff which is the legacy of 2000 years of uncontrolled gold mining. The Romanian state-owned mining company, which operated the mine until early 2006, was forced to close its outdated and inefficient operation in the course of Romania's negotiations for EU accession. The mine was the only industry in the area: its closure sent unemployment soaring to over eighty per cent and left many of the village's 3,000 inhabitants facing destitution. Then Canadian company Gabriel Resources launched an ambitious plan to build the largest open cast gold mine in Europe. The project involves relocating almost two thousand people and their homes, along with eight churches and their graveyards. In the ensuing controversy, the World Bank's International Financial Corporation declined to support the project. However Gabriel Resources proceeded with private capital and in 2010 they had succeeded in buying out 98% of the local homeowners. Although Gabriel's deal includes a commitment to comprehensive environmental rehabilitation, the battle over Rosia Montana continued to rage on the political scene.