Monday, 3 September 2012


Increasingly when it comes to development, whether for natural resources (and I include minerals and food produce here) or sustainable energy developments (in Wales, across Europe and around the world) there is an increasing problem of finding the right balance between economic development, the environment, job creation and the impact of development on the local community. In Europe, the problem is as real in the East as it is in the West as it is anywhere else in the world. Romania, an EU member, is one of the Europe’s poorest nations and has high unemployment, yet, is rich in natural resources.

Rosia Montana Gold Mine (Transylvania, Romania)
The case of the town of Rosia Montana (in Transylvania) which has high unemployment yet sits in and on rich mineral deposits of gold. In the communist era the town’s inhabitants paid a high price for with environmental pollution. Now local authorities (and many local people) are desperate for jobs and have understandably jumped at the prospect of investment from foreign investors who want to re-open the town's communist-era gold mine which appears to be a much needed lifeline.

Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) the company behind the project, which was first mooted back in the mid-1990s, says that the new mine could benefit the Romanian economy to the tune of $19bn (£12bn) and create thousands of jobs in the process. The proposed mining project by the Canadian company Eldorado Gold Corporation through the Deva Gold Company at Certej, Hunedoara County, has just received the environmental permit from the Regional Environmental Protection Agency of Timisoara.

Not everyone thinks that this proposed development is a good thing, local activists and some residents are seriously concerned about the reopening of the old mine and the use of cyanide in ore processing. They may have a point, especially after leaks of toxic chemicals used in mining processes at Baia Mare (in Romania) in 2000 and more recently in neighbouring Hungry, had a massive impact on local people and the wider environment.

The proposed development aside will destroy some key archaeological sites, where there is archaeological and metallurgical evidence of gold mining from the classical period. Alburnus Maior was founded by the Romans during the rule of Trajan as a mining town, with Illyrian colonists from South Dalmatia. The earliest reference to the town is on a wax tablet dated 6 February AD 131. Archaeologists have discovered houses, necropolises, mine galleries, mining tools, 25 wax tablets and many inscriptions in Greek and Latin, centred around Carpeni Hill much of which will be destroyed if the mining project goes ahead. .

Whether we are talking about communities in the developed world or the developing world the bottom line has to be that that local people should have a significant say or even control over the development process and any community should benefit from the exploitation of local resources. Too many times (here in Wales and elsewhere) we have seen that promises of jobs have not been fulfilled and too many local communities have been left with a toxic environmental legacy and scant long term benefits.

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