One of the reasons for the conquest of Dacia by the Romans in 106 AD continues to attract foreign interests to Romania even today, the fabled gold of the Rosia Montana region. I had the good fortune to be able to visit Romania in 2004 as part of my PhD research, and I travelled through the Rosia Montana region which is the home to some amazing archaeological sites.
A proposed open cut gold mine by Canadian Gabriel Resources would destroy much of the archaeology here, which provides some of the best evidence for Roman mining practices and the lives of those who toiled in the mines which would be a tragedy. There is so much to be learnt here, and much of it has not even been looked at.
Besides the destruction of important historical sites, this form of mining is an environmental disaster waiting to happen, look at the events at Baia Mare (also in Romania) in 2000 which is just one of more than 30 major incidents involving this type of mining in the last 25 years. The Baia Mare incident occurred when a tailings reservoir containing more than 100 tons of cyanide and other heavy metals, by-products of the gold extraction process, sprung a leak. This affected one of the world’s most important rivers, the Danube, and saw the destruction of thousands of tons of fish, and the pollution of drinking water for millions of people. The proposed mine in the Rosia Montana like that at Baia Mare would also create a large reservoir of cyanide contaminated tailings.
In a disturbing turn of events the current Romanian social democrat government has suspended the country’s application to see the region deemed a world heritage site, which would protect it from mining, whilst it considers its position. It can only be assumed that this reconsideration comes as a result of the threat of a 4.4 billion dollar lawsuit by the Canadian mining company which claims that the 2013 Romanian government violated agreements that would have allowed Gabriel Resources to mine the site.
The Romanian people made their feelings clear in 2013 when the mine was first set to go ahead and convinced the government of the time not to proceed and instead enact protective legislation to protect the region. I hope that they again show the strength of their resolve not to see their history destroyed, and environment endangered, in the pursuit of financial gain.