Environment study raises hopes for end of gold dispute in Rosia Montana
A Canadian company's plan to dig up over 300 tons of gold from the Rosia Montana area raised criticism from locals and non-governmental organizations that fear the project will dislodge the community, endanger the environment and destroy unique archeological vestiges. All parts involved hope an environmental study, due by the end of this month, will put a much anticipated end to six long years of struggle.
The gold rush fights a silent battle in the Apuseni Mountains' village of Rosia Montana. At first glance, the high mountains surrounding the area, the layer of sparkling white snow hanging on till late spring, the tall leafless trees in the village and the overwhelming silence speak nothing of the community's drama that has raised spirits around the world.
Centuries ago, aristocrats of the Roman Empire adorned themselves with jewelry made from the gold in the Apuseni Mountains, for which they dug deep galleries in the mountains. Now the mining galleries dating back to 131 A.D. are unique in Europe and are witnesses to the area's history.
The inhabitants in the area are called "motzi," the successors of a people who throughout history have resisted a long line of attacks from rival tribes and, later on, armies.
The legends and stories of the village guarded by four mountains reveal only morsels of its past. The rest is revealed by rich archeological remnants still visible in this ancient village.
The mountains hide Europe's largest deposit of pure gold, the metal so yearned for by some and so hated by others that has triggered a fierce battle in Rosia Montana.
The fury heaped on Rosia in 2000, when Gabriel Resources, a Toronto-based company, obtained the rights extract 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 treasures that seem to have sealed the fate of their village. The 20-year mining project would displace an estimated 2,000 people, level four mountains, demolish over 900 houses, seven churches, three prayer houses, and nine cemeteries, as well as the network of underground mines dating from Roman times.
Thus, the mining company's project, in spite of creating hundreds of jobs and its attempts to preserve some of the archeological treasures they are digging through, found strong opposition from locals, environmentalists and archaeologists, who have been trying to stop the project for the last six years.
Taking its name from Rosia Montana's Roman name, the grassroots group Alburnus Maior, the project's main opponent, was formed in September 2000 by local property owners who oppose the mine on social, environmental, economic and cultural grounds and refuse to sell their lands.