JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Romanian government has announced that it will approach the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to withdraw a request to declare the Roşia Montană gold mine a protected area.
Prime Minister Mihai Tudose reportedly told a talk show on Romanian TV this week that his government would ask that Unesco set aside a request by the country’s former government, as the inclusion of the 2 000-year-old mining area would make it impossible to exploit resources in the area.
Inclusion in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites will grant Roşia Montană protection from industrial activities, including mining. The UN has reportedly accepted Romania’s request to include the area in February this year and Tudose has said that it may be difficult to have the decision reversed.
Roşia Montană is the largest undeveloped gold deposits in Europe and among the top 20 undeveloped gold projects globally. Canada-based miner Gabriel Resources has been trying to exploit the gold in Roşia Montană for more than a decade, but the project has been stuck in legal limbo for years.
Gabriel CEO Jonathan Henry said on Friday that he could not comment on the developments, noting that the company was “neither consulted on the original Unesco listing process, nor on the latest intentions that have been stated by Prime Minister Tudose”.
Gabriel, which has spent more than $700-million on the Roşia Montană gold/silver project since getting involved in 1996, is suing Romania for a record C$5.7-billion before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
The company in January 2015 first served a notice of dispute to the Romanian government to seek an amicable resolution to the permitting and authorisation of the Roşia Montană gold and silver mine.
The project had drawn fierce opposition from civil rights and environmental groups, who argue it would destroy ancient Roman mine galleries and villages and could lead to an ecological disaster. Neighbouring Hungary has also voiced opposition to the project.