Prime Minister: My relationship with Antonescu is not strained. The Rosia Montana contract has been confidential since 1999.
Leaders of the Social Liberal Union (USL) have reached the attack stage over the Rosia Montana project. Yesterday, PNL Chairman Crin Antonescu accused his alliance partner, PM Victor Ponta, of not taking responsibility for the government initiated project and blamed him for manipulating the discussion on expropriations and playing a “dirty” game.
The Liberal leader’s accusations refer to the Prime Minister Ponta’s statements made for Antena 3 late Wednesday evening. Antonescu believes it was an opportunity for Ponta to “make his case” regarding Rosia Montana. “It’s downright unacceptable for a private company to come and make expropriations in Romania. No, the Romanian state does expropriations, regardless of its association agreement with other,” Antonescu emphasized.
“I think the Prime Minister wants this project really bad, but he won’t take responsibility for it,” he added. Antonescu also criticized PSD’s “campaign” against him, singling out the Prime Minister.
Asked how he thinks the problem will be solved, the Liberal leader replied that either the government will give the green light from an environmental point of view and take responsibility for the project after it is pulled out from the legislative forum, or discussions will continue in the Parliament and “the Prime Minister will have to make his case”. In his opinion, to end these discussions in the Parliament, the government must take responsibility for the project.
On the other hand, PM Ponta denounced on Wednesday on Antena 3 there are interests outside Romania in blocking some economic projects and stressed the Rosia Montana gold mining project is one of them, but at the same time he underscored that most of those having recently protested against or rallied for this western Romania project did it in good faith. The prime-minister also said that if the Rosia Montana gold mining project is rejected, Romania must find the answer to what it will do next and he voiced ‘fear’ that the signal will be that ‘nothing is to be done in Romania from now on’. As for the possibility that Rosia Montana might be exploited by a Romanian company, Ponta explained the exploitation licence has been given for 20 years and however, even if the gold-quarrying were carried out by a Romanian company, it would be still conducted by cyanide-based technology, since there is no other one. “(…) We actually carry out nationalization by rejecting the exploitation, we nationalize the resources. The issue is the following: we need to invest 1.9 billion dollars in technology in order to begin the investment, and we do not have this money at this moment,” Ponta explained.
He also announced Environmental Minister Rovana Plumb has signed and approved the draft law concerning the Rosia Montana gold mining project, adding that if the draft law clears Parliament an environmental certificate will also be issued for the same project.
In a press conference held yesterday, the head of the Executive said the 1999 exploitation licence is top confidential. According to Ponta, only things that can be made public are the 20 years-long licence and the 6 per cent royalties to the Romanian state. He also notified that, provided the project is not done, Romania must pay EUR 150 million for the area greening. “The Government will defend itself in case there is a lawsuit at the international courts,” Ponta told the journalists.
Regarding to Antonescu’s critics, Ponta pointed out he had no tensioned relationship with him, the Premier even agreed with his partner that parliamentary debate is needed on Rosia Montana project, but he argued Antonescu shouldn’t have expressed his position before this debate. Yesterday, PM Ponta resumed explanations on this topic, saying in a press conference “he has never openly criticized Antonescu during the past three years”. He added there is no question of the coalition breaking up at this moment.
Gabriel Resources recalls statements on compensation
After Gabriel Resources Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Henry stated on Wednesday that the company will ask for compensation of up to USD 4 billion, a few hours later, the Chairman of the Board of Gabriel Resources, Keith Hulley said in press release that “the words that were referred to Mr. Henry were never said by him and got misquoted”. “We will acknowledge any decision taken by the Romanian Government or Parliament concerning Rosia Montana, a Project in which we have invested millions of dollars and we have worked with your country to design to the highest international standards for the benefit of the people of Romania. The company will provide all information necessary in support of a considered Parliamentary review of the merits of the Project so that people will be able to make an informed decision, in the knowledge that the ultimate and final decision will remain with the Romanian Government and Parliament, on behalf of the Romanian people,” said Hulley.
Liberal leader Crin Antonescu said Thursday evening, after the meeting with PM Victor Ponta that the Social-democrat party (PSD) has decided to return to the setting up of a special parliamentary committee for Rosia Montana and to withdraw the emergency procedure regarding the draft law. PM Ponta has left the Senate Speaker’s office without making any statements, being accompanied by first-deputy premier Liviu Dragnea and Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin.