Andreea Pocotila mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]
Protesters chained themselves to the Environment Ministry's headquarters.
Six Greenpeace activists from Romania, Austria, and Hungary yesterday tied
themselves to the Environment Ministry's building with chains, protesting
against the Rosia Montana mining project.
The protesters arrived at the ministry in the morning and in only a few
minutes tied themselves with chains to the building, wearing yellow T-shirts
reading "Save Rosia Montana." They did not shout any slogans; they did not
say a word. They only hung on the ministry's entrance door a message reading
"Closed for Inactivity" and formed a human chain in front of the building.
"We want to cause an alarm and to show that we can be more firm," said one
of the activists chained to the building, Natalia Dorca, to answer a
question from the journalists. "This is a clear case of inactivity," said
her colleague, Cornel Ziman referring to the reason for protests - that
Environment Minister Sulfina Barbu has not suspended the illegal procedure
of environment impact assessment for the mining project in Rosia Montana
that the Toronto-based company Gabriel Resources has planned.
About 15 minutes later, a ministry's representative came down and asked the
protesters if they had an authorization. The communication was not
trouble-free, as General Secretary Ion Anghel could not speak English and
Greenpeace press officer Herwig Schuster could not speak Romanian.
Nevertheless, Anghel did understand that the protest was not authorized by
"They are hindering the entrance in the ministry. The procedure says I have
to call the gendarmes," Anghel said. And so he did.
In 20 minutes, five sturdy gendarmes arrived at the scene. However, they
soon changed their mind when they saw the situation and the dozen of
journalists present and turned back. They came back later with enforcements.
About a dozen of gendarmes tried to peacefully end the protest by talking to
representatives of both the ministry and the NGO. They then ID-ed the
protesters and told them to leave.
When the response was negative, the unwavering gendarmes resorted to force,
pulling the activists away from the building, despite the fact that they
were tied with chains. They even took out handcuffs and tried to put them on
the activists' hands, but with no luck. The chains were again in the way and
the young activists were determined to stay.
The gendarmes did not give up. They tried to remove the ends of the chains
from where they were hung by pulling them, but no luck here, either, as the
chains had strong locks. Eventually, one of the gendarmes came up with the
idea to cut the chains and they finally managed to drag protesters one by
one, despite their resistance and yelling.
"They are not gentlemen at all," said Greenpeace coordinator campaign Herwig
Schuster while two gendarmes were pulling a girl by her back, despite her
complaints that they were hurting her.
When asked if he asked for such violent intervention to be used for the
protest to be stopped, the ministry's official response was that he did not
ask gendarmes to act this way. "But the activists are here illegally, aren't
they?" Anghel quickly added.
Greenpeace determined to continue protests
"We cannot accept that Romania develops an illegal process of authorization
for these mining projects that uses cyanide," said Schuster.
The mining project has raised scandal and controversy over the last six
years, as many locals and non-governmental organizations have opposed the
project, rejecting the company's arguments that the venture will create
hundreds of working places and will improve the poor environmental
The main opponent of the project, the Rosia Montana-rooted Alburnus Maior
non-governmental organization, has fought the mining project and has sued
Gabriel Resources many times trying to stop their plan.
Alburnus Maior's juridical counselor, Eugenia Simion, was present at the
protest, but said her organization did not take part in the protest.
"It is not illegal to organize a protest in a public place," she said,
adding that the only thing the protesters might be fined for is that they
are blocking the ministry's entrance.
Journalist Stephanie Roth, a 34-year-old French citizen and volunteer with
Alburnus Maior is another foe of Gabriel Resources' project who yesterday
attended the Greenpeace protest.
"I am glad to see that the civil society in Romania gets involved in things
that matter. This ministry should have been closed for inactivity long ago,"
said Roth, who was awarded one of six 2005 Goldman Environmental Prizes for
her fight for the Rosia Montana cause. She donated her 125,000 dollar prize
to fund the campaign against the mining project.
Last week Greenpeace organized another protest in front of the ministry,
this time with authorization and with no similar incidents. Back then they
asked Barbu for a response to their request for the EIA to be suspended, the
official refused to make any comment. "I will not make any statements before
the EIA public debates are over," Barbu said two weeks ago.
The Environment Impact Assessment was put together by Gabriel Resources, as
the law required the company to analyze the effects of their proposed mining
project on an environmental, social and archeological level.
The EIA was sent to the ministry and approved. Next week public debates will
be held before it is sent to the government.
"We are waiting with interest to receive any kind of comments, to answer
questions and to discuss any problem that is raised by the interested public
regarding our project," said Gabriel Resources president Alan Hill last
month, adding that his company hopes for a constructive dialogue to take
"We appreciate the openness and transparency, the will of involvement in the
discussions regarding what we want to be a mining project carried out in
Romania at international standards," Hill said.
However, Greenpeace says the EIA is against the law and should not have been
green lighted by the ministry.
"Greenpeace criticizes the current environment policy in Romania. Even if
Ms. Barbu declares in the ministry's nice brochure that 'Terra's gifts are
not endless,' she supports the mining project in Rosia Montana, considered
by ecologists one of the most problematic initiatives in Central and Eastern
Europe," said the Greenpeace's release.
The conflict in Rosia Montana goes on and seems even more tense as neither
the mining company nor the activists fighting against the project seem
willing to soften their position.
The fury escalated in 1997, when Gabriel Resources obtained the rights to
take the impressive 330 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver out. But the
local community has to pay a high price for the gold treasure that seems to
have sealed the fate of their village. The 20-year mining project is to
displace an estimated 2,000 people, level four mountains, demolish 900
houses, six churches and cemeteries, as well as the network of underground
mines dating from Roman times.
"Let me know, that at least, she will try
Then she'll be a true love of mine"
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