LONDON, Jan 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Romania has
asked the United Nations to make a Transylvanian village
boasting 18th century houses and intact Roman mining shafts into
a World Heritage site in a surprise 11th hour move that could
protect it from a gold mine project.
The request to list Rosia Montana was announced as the
government of Dacian Ciolos handed over power this week to the
incoming Social Democrat Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, who won
elections last month.
Romania's outgoing culture minister said in a statement late
Thursday that a request had been sent to the U.N. Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
This was an unexpected move by the government which last
week stated it would not proceed with the UNESCO application
that dates back to 2011 and has been caught up in a fight over a
"Protection of national treasures is one of the main
responsibilities of the Ministry of Culture," said an online
statement by the government.
Rosia Montana, which sits atop one of Europe's largest gold
deposits, has been at the centre of a battle between villagers
and the Canada-listed mining company Gabriel Resources for more
than 15 years.
Gabriel Resources said the $1.5 billion project to build
Europe's largest gold mine would provide a major boost for
Romania's economy and create hundreds of jobs for the
Transylvania region - the legendary home of Dracula.
But Rosia Montana's residents feared the mine would destroy
their village and surrounding hills and farming lands as well as
pollute the local environment.
Campaign groups cautiously welcomed the government's
application to UNESCO, but said the battle had not yet been won.
"We have won this battle so many times but the company just
kept coming back with new allies and new governments," Tudor
Bradatan, a spokesman for the "Save Rosia Montana" campaign,
told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
No one from Gabriel Resources was immediately available to
Opposition to the mine ignited a wave of national protests
in 2013 described as the biggest since the early 1990s
Under pressure from locals and global environmentalists, the
then government blocked the mine but last year Gabriel Resources
took the fight to the World Bank's international arbitration
tribunal to seek a reported $4 billion in compensation.
The tribunal began hearing the case on Sept. 23 but no
second hearing is yet set.
(Reporting by Paola Totaro and Claudia Ciobanu, Editing by
Katie Nguyen and Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson
Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that
covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property
rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)