President Basescu’s statements on Rosia Montana spark controversy

RMGC: The project is a good deal for Romania.

By Adina Popescu

While several NGOs called, yesterday, on president Basescu to qualify his statements pleading for the initiation of the Rosia Montana mining project, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) representatives argue the project is a good deal for the Romanian government. The head of state said earlier this week the Rosia Montana project should kick off, adding that the state needed gold for the central bank reserves, which should be boosted to 200 tonnes.

RMGC stated, in a press release to “Nine O’Clock”, that the Romanian government had got “an exceptionally good deal” when it acquired the minority stake in the Rosia Montana gold project. “This is an opinion backed by more than two decades of expertise in the subject of mining taxation. It is the opinion of James Otto, American professor and an internationally recognized authority whose work on natural resources legislation is the standard for organizations as diverse as the United Nations or the World Bank. (…) He notes that, while some governments in West African countries do take equity stakes in mining projects, these stakes are ‘almost always of 10 pc or less’ – or about half of what Romanians currently own. Furthermore, he adds that it is important to remember that the Romanian taxpayers did not pay cash for this equity stake,” the press release reads. RMGC is developing the Rosia Montana mining project in the Apuseni Mountains.

On the other hand, nearly 30 environmental NGOs called yesterday on the head of state, in a joint statement quoted by Mediafax, to withdraw his recent statements in reference to the Rosia Montana project, which, they argued, exercise “unacceptable pressure on the authorities” to make a decision as to the approval or the rejection of the project. “We deem the recent statements made by the Romanian president, openly supporting the controversial and, as yet, hypothetical mining project in Rosia Montana, unacceptable, given that the said project is controversial and open to contestation from various quarters and the environmental impact analysis, required under the provisions of the law, is yet to be completed (…),” the joint letter reads.

Environmental activists accused the president of “contradicting himself and acting in violation of the promises he himself made during the election campaign, when he explicitly stated he would allow the specialists to decide and would not exercise political pressures in the matter of the Rosia Montana mining project”. The document is signed by representatives of 27 environmental NGOs from Cluj-Napoca, Braila, Fagaras, Brasov, Miercurea Ciuc, Bucharest, Oradea, Resita, Iasi, Sighisoara and Rosia Montana.

The project breeds division even within the coalition or, rather, within the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), between the Union leader and Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor and presidential aide Peter Eckstein-Kovacs. The latter signed on Sunday evening in Cluj-Napoca a petition by which the “Transilvania Verde” Association calls on the Culture Minister to withdraw the archaeological discharge certificate for the Carnic massif in Rosia Montana, arguing he had joined the action because, in his opinion, the investment harms Romania. In response, Kelemen Hunor stated yesterday he had not signed yet the discharge certificate and called on Eckstein to clarify his stand. In retort, Eckstein said his position does not thwart with UDMR’s line. “If they want to expel me from the party because I don’t like cyanides, so be it. I have been an UDMR member longer than Mr. Kelemen and I intend to stay”, said Eckstein, quoted by Realitatea.net.

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