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Why Are We Protesting on September 1?

As I already said, tomorrow I’ll be attending what I sure hope will be a reasonably large protest and only one of the many scheduled to take place that day. At the time I’m writing this, the official list, which is in Romanian but should be usable for those who don’t know the language as well, includes 25 cities in Romania and 21 more abroad, though not all protests planned to take place abroad are also scheduled for tomorrow, the one in Berlin being listed as taking place today and those in Luxembourg, Paris and Vienna being scheduled for September 3, 5 and 6, respectively. Admittedly, these protests organized abroad are generally also organized by the local Romanian communities, but the fact that they exist implies a need for an explanation of the issue that’s not only in Romanian, so I thought I’ll add one here as well, just in case somebody’ll happen to be interested.

To start from the beginning when it comes to this day, September 1 was initially supposed to be a day of protests against fracking. However, besides the major planned event in Barlad, news of that didn’t catch on and when some activists reacted to what our Government did this Tuesday by calling for a protest regarding the Rosia Montana issue on the same day, the date quickly became a national, and then international, day of protest on this topic instead. This obviously caused some tension between the two sides initially, but that was quickly smoothed over by joining the two events, so the Barlad protest will also tackle the Rosia Montana issue and the events related to Rosia Montana have a mention about the anti-fracking protest in the description and specify that those who attend may bring signs and chant slogans against fracking as well, the two topics being the only ones that should be brought up.

So what did our Government do on August 27? Well, despite the fact that stopping the Rosia Montana open-pit gold mining project was point eight of the 15-point program the current ruling coalition originally presented, they now approved a law proposal that literally puts Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) above the other laws and courts. This in effect admits that the the Rosia Montana mining project is illegal, but states that it is of national interest and strategic importance and, in short, must go forward regardless of any other laws it breaks or any other interests it comes in direct conflict with.
With the Parliament back in session as of Monday, the law is expected to be voted on quickly and, seeing as the ruling coalition controls about 70% of seats and at least two of the three opposition parties have been strongly in favor of the project in the past as well, most probably approved by the end of September. Admittedly, party leaders seem to be backing off slightly and claiming that it will be a free vote, with each member being able to vote as their conscience dictates without risking any sanctions, and several members of the Parliament have announced that they will make full use of this freedom and oppose the law, but overall that seems to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to defuse the situation.

If you want specifics, we’re talking about a law that states, among other things, that:
– In case any documentation or procedure required by RMGC has been declared null and void, the state has the obligation to issue new and valid documentation.
– RMGC can relocate natural monuments found within the allocated perimeter.
– RMGC is permitted to perform mining activities in the areas where mining is otherwise expressly forbidden, namely on sites with historical, cultural or religious significance, archaeological sites of special interest, nature reserves, areas protected for sanitary reasons or the protected perimeters of water sources.
– While the environmental impact assessment for plans and programs otherwise requires a minimum of eight months, any such procedure requested by RMGC must be finalized within three months.
– While any other mining operation can start 180 days after depositing the security against environmental damage in full, RMGC can do so 30 days after depositing the amount required for a single year of operations.
– The perimeter covered by the license has no fixed limits and the authorities must reconfigure it whenever RMGC requests it.
– While the state otherwise has priority in purchasing areas that are part of or next to publicly-owned forests, RMGC can mark any forested areas within the allocated perimeter as urban and gain ownership of them.
– RMGC represents the state in any expropriation procedure for plots of land necessary for the mining operation.
– RMGC can lease any expropriated buildings within the allocated perimeter for 49 years.
– RMGC has the right to use and change the use of any expropriated buildings and sites within the allocated perimeter, including places of worship, monuments, historical sites, graveyards or other important locations, as long as the company creates replicas elsewhere.
– RMGC is not required to obtain documentation stating that areas of known archaeological importance found within the allocated perimeter and where further research based on existing studies and information is set to take place are no longer of archaeological interest.
– While otherwise, in case of an accidental archaeological discovery, the construction permit is suspended until the site is declared as no longer being of archaeological interest, RMGC can continue construction work on the rest of the perimeter covered by the permit while archaeologists analyze the area where the accidental discovery took place.
– Any archaeological work on a plot of land within the allocated perimeter must not take more than three months.
– RMGC can purchase or lease any property owned by the state or local administration within at most 45 days of making such a request.
– RMGC can mark any plot of land registered as a pasture as urban and no longer for agricultural use within 30 days of submitting a request to do so, during which time the state or local authorities must grant the company an equivalent plot of land previously owned by the state in order for it to recreate the pasture on the new location.
– The preliminary documentation obtained by RMGC is valid forever and may be used to obtain the final permits at any point in time.
– While any construction permit is otherwise valid for no more than 12 months, during which time the construction work must start, RMGC can start construction work up to 36 months after being issued a permit, which in itself will be valid indefinitely.

We’re talking about one of Europe’s seven most endangered monuments and sites. We’re talking about four mountains being wiped off the face of the Earth, a large and beautiful area being turned into a dead zone, a gigantic quantity of cyanide being used and then left in an artificial lake which may at any point in the future create yet another catastrophe, and a large number of monuments, sites and artifacts of historical and cultural significance being destroyed. We’re talking about priceless Nature and thousands of years of history, the site having been a gold mine since ancient times, set to be replaced with nothing but poison, death and emptiness solely because a Canadian corporation wants to get rich from the gold, silver and rare earths found there and some, or in fact all, Romanian officials can be bought or pressured into agreeing with their plans.

So these would be some of the reasons why we’re protesting yet again against the Rosia Montana mining project. Some are also bothered by how little the Romanian state stands to gain from it financially, or by the fact that the mine won’t stay open for decades and any jobs created in the area will vanish once again as soon as it will close, but I definitely wouldn’t care even if the state would get 100% of the revenue and a few hundred people, or even a few thousand people, would get jobs for the rest of their lives. Nature and health have no price, and many would include history and culture into that category as well, yet unfortunately politicians do.

This is a fight that has been going on since the ’90s, yet it’s also a fight that the people have kept winning, stopping the company at every turn and obtaining more than 20 court victories despite the fact that governments and local authorities have always struggled to aid RMGC. This new law may be the hardest hurdle any government has dared throw in our path, but if much smaller groups with fewer resources have managed to beat back the threat before, we can do so again now, together!

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