Europe, Romania, Human Rights, Politics

Rosia Montana: Between Truth and Manipulation

Roșia Montană is a mining village in the Apuseni Mountains, Alba County, Transylvania, Romania. It is located in Rosia Valley, and crossed by the Rosia River. The Roşia River is rich in minerals, especially iron, which gives a reddish color, hence the common name in Romanian and Hungarian. The reddish color of the water is due to excessive mining that lasted for over 2000 years.

History of Rosia Montana

The locality has a millennial existence, being known even before the conquest of Dacia, mentioned by Herodotus, Pliny, and Titus Liviu. This city is one of the oldest settlements in traditional precious metals operation in Europe. The Romans founded it during the reign of Trajan, when colonists were arriving from the mining town of Illyria. It was known as Alburnus Maior.

The first document in which the specified name is mentioned is a sheet of wax dating of 6 February CE 131.

In the ruins of the city, archaeologists have found homes, tombs, galleries, and mining tools, a variety of inscriptions in Greek and Latin and 25 tablets of wax. Many of these archaeological discoveries can be found in the Roșia Montană Mining Museum.

Roșia Montană has seen and lived all events in Romanian history. In 1784, revolutionaries of Cloșca, born in the village Cărpiniş, destroyed explorers’ homes. In 1848, Avram Iancu, one of the most devoted revolutionaries, was here on Simon Balint.

Roșia Montană gold deposits are believed to be the largest in all of Europe. The area has been exploited for at least two millennia, hence the name “Red Mountain” from rivers reddened from toxic spills resulting from over 2000 years of gold mining.

Minvest SA, a state mining company, operated the mine from 1989 to 2006. Due to the use of outdated mining practices and being dependent on state subsidies, which did not comply with the EU practices, Minvest closed its activities as part of the negotiation that paved the way to EU accession. As a result, the Roșia Montană unemployment increased from 50% to 70%, leaving 1,000 people unemployed and a desperate village, unless mining continued under private ownership.

Roșia Montană project is about gold mining using cyanide. Representatives of the former government stopped the project in different phases. Gold Cyanidation, known as the MacArthur-Forrest process, is a metallurgical technology used to extract gold from ore by converting it into a water-soluble complex. It is best known for the extraction of gold.

Who is RMGC?

Here is a quote from their website: “Roșia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) is a company founded in 1997 in Alba, in which shareholders are state mining company Minvest Deva – with 19.31% and Gabriel Resources – with 80.69%. RMGC is to develop the most modern mine in Romania, at Rosia Montana, bringing major benefits to the Romanian economy. As a model mine, RMP will set a new standard for responsible gold mining, both at EU level and at mondial. Compania Gabriel Resources is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (symbol: GBU). Currently, over 80% of shares are held by U.S. investors, including Newmont Mining, the second largest producer of gold in the world with 13%, Electrum Strategic Holdings LLC and Paulson & CO 16% to 16%. To date, Gabriel Resources has invested over 450 million dollars in Romania by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation. The total investment in the development of the mine is estimated at $1.7 billion.”

RMGC has been present in Romania since 1995, when they signed a mining contract with Regia Autonomă a Cuprului Deva for mining, or when they signed a contract with blab la, allowing them to mine in Romania. In 1977, Gold Corporation formed by Gabriel Resources Limited (65% share) and Autonomous Copper Deva (now Minvest-rate 33.8) arises. In 1998, the Romanian government gives 14% of its holdings in RMGC, representing compensation of Gabriel Resources Limited filed for starting the project. This is the current form of the draft RMP miner.

Also during this period, RMGC mixed obtain a license for exploration and exploitation, by transferring it from Minvest SA, which contravened the law. However, the operation would have to hold a supplementary tender. The two government decisions for approval and license transfer are signed by Berceanu, Minister of Economy and Industry. The license is suspiciously kept secret.

Between 2001 and 2003 RMGC submits several projects, including one to obtain environmental approvals for mining at Roșia Montană. Public opinion is entirely against the project, which is challenged by the homeowners association in the region, Alburnus Maior, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church in an official statement, Romanian Academy, “to Save Rosia Montana Group” of the Academy of Economic Studies, associations of archaeologists, ecologists and other NGOs. The company takes action under pressure and calls off the project.

In 2005, RMCG begins their first ad campaign to convince people that the Romanian mining project in Apuseni Mountains is beneficial. The campaign takes the form of a documentary in which the residents of Rosia Montana beg for employment, all shot in a dark frame, in grey scale.

The Rosia Montana Controversy

Surely you remember the TV clips that ended with “Gabriel solution for Roșia Montană.” From the start, the campaign to promote the mining project made the smart move to focus on serious social issues of Rosia Montana. The intention of the campaign was to highlight all that was bad in the area: a former communist mine derelict, water contaminated water with iron, zinc and arsenic due to excessive mining (hence the name Rosia), poor people who remained unemployed after closure, and a heritage house that is collapsing because no one has money to fix (due to the lack of funds for maintenance).

In 2009, Bogdan Naumov, from 23 Communication Ideas, and Leo Burnett started to handle RMGC’s new advertising campaign, consisting of five campaign spots where various people were interviewed on the street with the question, “In which projects should Romania invest 4 billion dollars?” After their response on the screen appears, the message “New Romanian RM Project brings $4 billion, in compliance with European environmental standards.”

This campaign has been prohibited by CNA (National Council of Audio-Visual) due to handling of population. CNA had made the decision that the campaign mislead through public advertising, as direct state benefits would be not of $4 billion but $1.8 billion.

The next campaign had the slogan, “The people of Roșia Montană want only to work” and contained clips at Roșia Montană, old photos with former miners, and the unemployed and young people without jobs. This was distributed across all communication channels to the public via television, newspapers, local or national press, online publications, blogs, social networking.

When it comes to advertising in the press in Romania, RMGC as VerticalNews has shown that few media outlets did not receive advertising from the mining company. All the major television broadcast clips with Sanda trusts & co Lungu: Pro TV, Antennas, Realitatea, B1 and much more.

Big Mining

The following print media published consistently pro-mining models: “Evenimentul zilei,” “Capital,” “Romania Libera,” “National Journal” and “Ziarul Financiar”. In addition, “Evenimentul Zilei” conducted on online campaign called the “Gold Mountain Romania” and all the materials were published in favour of the mining project, unmarked with the symbol P ad though. Some of these were more like commercials than news articles.

The latest campaign had the slogan, “Romania asks, RMGC answer,” where people are invited to ask questions about the project and RMCG answers. A team from HiFi Productions conducted the filming.

It is estimated to cost approximately 1.3 million euro for advertising services for three years, according to internal documents obtained by Mihai Gotiu from RMGC, the amount supported by Bogdan Naumovici himself in an interview on paginademedia.ro. He claimed that bonus in case of success will be over 500,000 euro.

Aside from the advertising campaigns from 2004 to 2010, the company organized trips to Finland, New Zealand and Spain, where mining technology is similar to the one planned to be used in Rosia Montana Project. These trips have involved journalists, opinion leaders, influential people in the Romanian media and local politicians. Among those who participated are Robert Turcescu, Ioan T. Morar, Mihai Tatulici, Livia Dila(B1), Doru Buscu (Academia Caţavencu), Floriana Jucan (Q Magazine), Emil Hurezeanu (Realitatea Caţavencu), Vlad Macovei (Evenimentul zilei), Rareş Bogdan (Ziua de Cluj), Dragoş Nedelcu (Realitatea Caţavencu), Sorin Freciu (Realitatea Caţavencu), Roxana Voloseniuc (Elle), and Corina Vintan. Trip costs are estimated at EUR 10,000 per person. Rosia Montana Gold Corporation paid for all costs. The company claims that this move is purely informal, notes Adevarul.ro. According to the source, the amount of vehicle travel is around 200,000 euro.

Is it Ethical or Not?

Cristian Tudor Popescu said that “Every journalist who is taken by a firm which has an obvious interest for years has no place in such a trip. Their departure is non Ethics trip because it is paid and can not ensure the objectivity of the journalist. (…) Since you call a boss, company representatives will create a current of opinion within that environment – television or newspaper. It’s worse than (to call, no) a simple journalist who can make a story and nothing more.”

Ioana Avădani (Director of the Centre for Independent Journalism – CJI) said, “If you look in the codes of conduct of serious newspapers as ‘NY Times’ or ‘The Guardian,’ the answer is obvious: An editorial responsible shouldn’t go anywhere other than on editor money… And not only in New Zealand but even in Făurei (small town in Romania). Even if is not a direct conditioning, suspicion exists.”

Besides handling the media with holidays and the population with unworthy and false commercials and campaigns, the political area has not remained untouched. The first project was influenced by Adriean Videanu, the Minister of Economy (2009, shortly after the presidential election). He stated, “I will start this project as soon as possible.” At the same time, there were requests from some LDP lawmakers in favor of RMGC to change mining law no.85-2003. Monica Macovei Commission forwarded a specialized letter that warned that “the expropriation provisions of the new rules seriously infringes the fundamental rights of citizens of Romania,” by changing the mining law for a foreign company as a legal instrument of expropriation power for local people who live on exploited sites.

Romania’s Government

Traian Basescu supported the project from RMGC, stating publicly several times that “the government should have the courage to say that this project should be initiated and brought to completion,” arguing that it would help both the Romanian economy and the affected area of the Rosia Montana.

“A president must not sabotage the state, but to support it. For this reason, I support any mining project that creates jobs and monetize mineral resources of the country, including this one. So I cannot be against the interests of my state and its citizens. And demagogues who lie about the ecological disaster there may be labeled, even devoid of any patriotism. And you know what? For me now, the RM level of pollution is now enormous.”

“The Romanian state has a charge of 4% that comes automatically, which means that 12 tons to 300 tons in reserve NBR for free. Probably a renegotiation would bring us some more,” (August 22, 2011 in a special broadcast on TVR).

Mugur Isarescu, central bank governor, said that “National Bank does not intend to increase its gold reserves. NBR involvement in Roşia Montană Project is not required, since the central bank increases its gold reserves.”

The President’s arguments have no sense. The gold must be purchased from RMGC, so it would not be acquired for free.

Traian Basescu’s opinions raised the Toronto Stock Exchange quotations of Gabriel Resources to historic highs in 2011. Whenever he appeared in public to support RMGC project, the shares on Canadian stock grew, so RMGC manages to earn money without starting any project, only exchange.

Basescu’s statements influenced the Gabriel actions in Canadian media. A “record” of presidential power voice was reached August 31, 2011 when, as the prestigious specialized website mining.com wrote, “Basescu support brought a 16% for such securities trading over a week.” When golden voice faded, the Toronto listed mining company suffered a contraction.

What Does the Law Say?

Recall Article 135 para. (2) of the Constitution:

(2) “The State must ensure:

  1. b) the protection of national interests in economic, financial and foreign exchange;
  1. d) exploitation of natural resources, consistent with the national interest;
  1. e) the restoration and protection of the environment and ecological balance;
  1. g) implementation of regional development policies in line with the European Union.

Recall par 136. (3) and (4) of the Constitution:

(3) Public wealth underground… shall be exclusively public property.

(4) Public property is inalienable. In accordance with the law, they can be managed autonomous administrations or public institutions or may be leased or rented, also they can be given free use of public institutions.”

Rosia Montana Propaganda

Authorities violate these articles of the Constitution by promoting this project, which is designed to exploit until exhaustion of the natural resources of national strategic importance – gold. Our participation is only 19.31%, which will cause a disaster and not lasting sustainable development, which destroys archaeological and historical heritage of national and global importance!

Corporate Strategy: communication and promotion to the public, trying to convince the country to accept the project; the use of conventional means, which is to buy advertising space in the media and advertising. Their ads talk about how much Romania would gain from the project, jobs that will be created and that the country’s heritage will be protected.

Additional interventions of the minerals project are misinformation, censorship, and blocking information. First is to cover the entire media campaign in Romania, both private and public. Advertising people looking for a job, resorting to emotional blackmail, are on all items. Their propaganda is basically that “it could bring $19 billion,” and this “could” be a useful tool for communicating false information.

The President is one of the main supporters of the project and pushed all his arguments for starting the project. Related news suddenly disappeared. Protests took place in Cluj, where 300 people have simulated death by cyanide, lying on the pavement with candles in hand, and none of the protests were unrepresented in the media.

Protests against mining at Rosia Montana began on September 1st and onwards every week since then. Sunday, 15th of September, over twenty thousand people marched on the streets of Bucharest, and then five thousand more than one week ago. Cyclists in front, followed by mothers pushing their babies’ strollers and then by an amazingly colourful crowd, one kilometre long, chanting what has become the hymn of this protest: “United, we save Roșia Montană.”

They also chanted “Come out of your houses, if you care,” inviting curious bystanders to join the march. Over twenty thousand people on Medium read the story of this new generation who has, for the past two weeks, come out in the streets every single night for an idea — nature should be worth more than money. Censorship is part of Old Romania. Our parents have seen it, and many have died to finally get rid of it.

Lessons from Rosia Montana

We have grown up with a firm belief in our rights of self-expression. Now these rights are being limited. Instead of this being the gag that supposedly should silence us, it will become the spark that will ignite us.

Due to the citizen’s pressure exercised by audiences, by carefully monitoring the actions of the parliament and pacific manifestations of thousands of people during several weeks, the draft law was brought in public attention and discussed again. In November 2013, the Parliamentary Special Committee created a proposed rejection of the draft law, called Pl-x 520/2013. That was the most significant attempt of a foreign company to change a law.

Provisions of the draft would bring multiple changes that would allow the company to exert executive choices. Unconstitutional expropriation proceedings, the obligation to deliver permits, exemptions from the law of historical monuments, and natural monuments in law from the European directive on water were denounced by civil society. Due to all the public actions, the Chamber of Deputies rejected this project on December 10th.

Society doesn’t want us to react and be united, but it wants us to be hard working and in debt. This example should show to all people around the world that when the crowd disagrees an action, we have the power to fight back! More importantly, it can make a difference! I want this message to be spread all around the world. Together we can make our life better!

About Ioana Miron

Ioana grew up in Bucharest, Romania and recently finished her master’s degree in journalism, international cooperation and humanitarian aid from the National School of Political Science and Public Administration. She’s an extremely intelligent, motivated, self-reliant and creative young woman always on the prowl for injustice to expose. Ioana’s impressive thirst for knowledge is only surpassed by her kind and generous heart.

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