Romania sets up commission to study controversial gold project

By bne IntelliNews September 19, 2013

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The share price of Canada's Gabriel Resources' recovered more ground on September 18 as it emerged Romania has set up a joint committee to study the Rosia Montana gold mine and issue an opinion on the draft law needed for the company to go ahead with the project.

The project - which would be one of Europe's biggest gold mines, extracting more than 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver from an old quarry in Transylvania - is facing huge opposition over its planned use of cyanide to separate a gram of gold from a ton of rock. Gabriel's shares tanked on September 9 following large protests and an apparent about turn by the government to shut down debate in parliament on the new legislation.

The Romanian government proposed the draft law on August 27. It would hand extraordinary powers to developer Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (in which Gabriel Resources is the majority stakeholder), giving it the power to relocate local residents. It also asks state authorities to grant the company all necessary permits within set deadlines, regardless of national legislation, court rulings or public participation requirements.

Gabriel Resources said on September 18 that it has been advised that the government has now set up a special committee to examine the proposed laws. An emergency procedure enacted earlier this month to halt the parliamentary debate has also been withdrawn. The company's shares closed 1.2% higher on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The parliamentary committee will be allowed to carry out on-site visits and may invite representatives of interested parties, non-governmental organizations and experts to participate in its work. It will present its findings by October 20, and Gabriel Resources says it expects a decision from parliament on the draft law around November 1.

Meanwhile, protests by environmentalists have continued since September 8, when tens of thousands demonstrated against the project in Bucharest, as well as the Transylvanian city of Cluj and other major cities. On September 17, the protests took a novel turn when a troop of tango dancers joined the protesters in the Romanian capital, as part of a flash mob.

Protesters have also called for the dismissal of the four politicians who initiated the new legislation - including ministers Dan Sova, Rovana Plumb and Daniel Barbu - as well as the head of the National Mineral Resources Agency: Gheorghe Dutu. Many critics charge politicians with hidden financial interests in the project. There are supporters of the gold mine, however, who argue it will bring jobs and money to Romania, which has 20% stake in the project company.

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