ALBURNUS MAIOR - CEE BANKWATCH NETWORK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bucharest, Romania, and Washington, DC: Today, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's private lending arm, announced that it would not financially support the controversial Rosia Montana gold mine project in Romania's Apuseni mountains. The project had come under fire from an international coalition of NGOs based on flaws in the project proposal and concerns about Gabriel Resources, the project sponsor. In an official statement, the IFC said that it had "concluded that it is in everybody's best interest that we do not pursue discussions with the company regarding IFC's involvement in the [Rosia Montana] project."
The Rosia Montana project, if realized, would be Europe's largest open-cast gold mining operation. Gabriel Resources' plan, in order to be economically feasible, would transform the valley of Rosia Montana, the oldest documented settlement in Romania, into four open-pit mines. The neighbouring valley of Corna would be converted into an unlined cyanide storage 'pond' covering a surface of up to 600 hectares, held back by a 180-meter high dam. The pits would generate roughly 196.4 million tons of cyanide-laced waste. The international coalition that opposed the mine pointed to the disastrous experience at the Baia Mare gold mine in Romania, where a cyanide spill in 2000 polluted the Tisza and Danube Rivers, contaminating the drinking water supplies of 2.5 million people and killing 1200 tons of fish.
In order to make way for this mega-project, more than 2000 people would have to be relocated. Many are subsistence farmers who do not wish to leave their lands. The IFC had projected that the mine would employ a workforce of 250 to 300 people over the mine's estimated lifespan of 15 years.
Toronto-based company Gabriel Resources (registered in Barbados) had approached the IFC for a loan rumoured to be approximately $250 million. The company has no previous mining experience. According to Dundee Securities, Gabriel Resource's founder and chairman Frank Timis has two convictions for possessing heroin with the intent to sell. An earlier venture of Mr. Timis, a Ukrainian petrol company, had been barred from the Toronto stock exchange. Gabriel Resources (T.GBU) is currently listed on the Toronto exchange.
In March this year, the mining company started an aggressive relocation program, in the absence of adequate public hearings or any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies. Toronto-based Planning Alliance is responsible for the resettlement. Prior to working with Gabriel Resources, it had been involved with the controversial relocation of 20,000 people at the Gold Fields mine in Tarkwa, Ghana.
The NGO coalition that opposes the project welcomed the IFC's statement. Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior, the local community group, said, "For well over two years we have been confronted on a daily basis with a psychological war to make way for the project. Today marks an important victory in our struggle to keep our land for our children. We are overjoyed and congratulate the IFC for its decision. We hope that other financial institutions and banks will follow suit and pull out or refrain from investing in this speculative, unprofitable and unsustainable project that will only increase pollution, poverty and corruption."
Other members of the international coalition include CEE Bankwatch Network (Prague), Mineral Policy Center (Washington, DC), Friends of the Earth International (Amsterdam) and Greenpeace CEE (Vienna). Joszef Feiler of CEE Bankwatch Network added, "the IFC's wise decision points out the low investment quality and troubled nature of the project as proposed by Gabriel Resources. We hope that those investing in this inflated project will take the IFC's judgment as a signal to look for a feasible and profitable alternative to this boondoggle."
"We are pleased that the IFC has recognized the enormous social, environmental and lost opportunity costs of the Rosia Montana gold mine, and made the responsible decision to turn it down," said Joan Kuyek of MiningWatch Canada. Payal Sampat of Mineral Policy Center in Washington, DC added, "This sends a powerful signal to all lenders: reject projects that communities have opposed. The World Bank and private banks should apply this precedent to all future lending decisions."
The project was also heavily criticised by a group of 83 Economics professors from Romania's renowned ASE university as well as by a host of international archaeologists who are extremely worried about the project's destructive impact on the area's unique Roman mine galleries and other archaeological treasures.
For more information, visit www.rosiamontana.org or contact:
Francoise Heidebroek (English) +40 7232 30790 or Eugen David (Romanian) +40 7402 80309, Alburnus Maior
Joszef Feiler, CEE Bankwatch Network, +36 30 436 5122
Joan Kuyek, MiningWatch Canada, +1 613 569 3439
Payal Sampat, Mineral Policy Center, +1 202 887 1872 x210