I recently attended the 7th annual FanFest, a cultural festival organized in the Romanian village Rosia Montana by the Save Rosia Montana Campaign between the 15th and 19th of August, 2012.
The festival aimed to highlight that Rosia Montana, a highly disputed region in Romania due to possessing one of the largest undeveloped European gold deposits, can live through tourism, agriculture, culture as well as other activities that do not harm the environment and national patrimony.
Save Rosia Montana, alongside many other NGOs and an ever-growing number of concerned Romanian citizens, have been fighting arduously for over a decade to prevent a Canadian company, Gabriel Resources Ltd., from exploiting the region’s resources. Although a corrupt Romanian government may have agreed to lease the Rosia Montana gold deposits to Gabriel Resources, the company’s project is extremely dangerous, due to its excessive use of cyanide, which would provoke irreparable environmental, cultural and social devastation of global proportions. While NGOs and Romanian people have been fighting against the mining initiative, Gabriel Resources has equally strived to promote it. As the struggle is intensifying, one crucial and possibly decisive actor, Canadian citizens, remains silent.
At FanFest, the fight between Gabriel Resources’ mining project opponents and promoters was more intense than ever. Save Rosia Montana organized multiple conferences on activism, exhibitions, literary events, a homemade fair, and film screenings . Meanwhile, Gabriel Resources-hired personnel were striving to attract the FanFest visitors to tours organized with the goal of shifting or mollifying their opposition to the cyanide-based mining project. During the festival, Gabriel Resources held open door days at the Catalina Monulesti Gallery, an ancient network which the Romans used to exploit and whose archeological exploration the Canadian Company has been financing since 2011. Some critics, such as Constantin Mustata, suggest that the Company started exploring the Roman mines not in an effort to uncover and protect valuable historical vestiges, but to assess if these particular sectors still contained gold deposits that could be extracted.
During FanFest, the company also organized tours of the village houses it has extensively boasted about renovating over the years, so as to demonstrate its commitment to preserving the region’s cultural heritage. Interestingly enough, while the Canadian company claims it plans to renovate approximately 500 houses, it has thus far renovated only around 20, most of which date from the XX century and which have been renovated with significant contributions from the Rosia Montana Mayor Office.
The majority of the 500 houses, the most historically valuable ones, whose renovation would require substantial investments, will be restored, according to the company, only after the exploitation begins. However, many experts have emphasized that the detonations through which the mining operations would be conducted would undoubtedly destroy the four mountains surrounding the Rosia Montana as well as most of the village’s already precarious buildings.
While some Rosia Montana residents have accepted to sell their houses to Gabriel Resources Ltd, many others have rejected the company’s offers and have independently renovated their homes. In an effort to support the locals opposing the Canadian-led mining project, the ARA Association, one of the NGOs working at Rosia Montana, launched during FanFest 2012 an alternative house restoration program, Adopt a House.
Most of the FanFest participants were young Romanians, gathered from all over the country as well as some foreign visitors, coming to show their support for Rosia Montana, take part in the activism sessions and volunteer for Adopt a House.
The struggle between the project’s opponents and supporters present at the festival carries a symbolic value. It represents a clash between gain-oriented capitalism and the young generation’s humane vision of the world and economic growth, one that places at its core protecting the environment, cultural and historical heritage and humans themselves. This growing struggle was visible not only during FanFest, but represents a daily reality in the lives of Rosia Montana’s inhabitants and of the growing number of Romanian citizens who are engaging in the fight for the region.
One of the key voices that needs to engage in this conflict and make itself heard is that of Canadian citizens, who should take action to protect Canada’s increasingly international declining image, tarnished by the environmental abuses committed by Canadians mining companies abroad, in Latin American countries as well as African ones. While several NGOs issued an apology to the people in developing countries, whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the reckless actions of Canadian mining companies and the Canadian’s government inability to effectively regulate their responsibilities abroad, the Canadian public has yet to give a stronger and more coagulate response against its companies’ grave violations. The Rosia Montana Project would be an ideal place to start from. While Gabriel Resources Ltd. Is struggling to gain approval for its project, Canadian citizens should join their Romanian counterparts in boycotting the Company’s project, to ensure that its stocks on the Canadian market fall. Canada has always been considered a good and responsible actor on the international scene and it should ensure that this does not changes due to the greedy and reckless practices of a few mining companies.
If the Canadian-led Rosia Montana mining project would be stopped and the Romanian region would be allowed to develop through sustainable alternative practices, this would mark an immense global victory in shifting values. It would indicate that the interests of local and national communities, protecting the environment, cultural heritage and historic landmarks are finally gaining a rightful priority over the selfish, profit-oriented ambitions of corporations, such as Gabriel Resources.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com