Comment: The return of the mining industry
Following Social Liberal Union (USL) taking power in Romania, it seems that all major mining projects were halted for an undefined period. Of course they were already on hold as the companies concerned were faced by various legal challenges from environmental campaigners and NGOs who happily took advantage of the previous government’s indecision and incompetence in the field of industrial development. Now that Romania has a Prime Minister who sides with the environmental lobby, no-one knows when, or if, any of these projects will be able to proceed.
The story in other parts of Europe is very different these days as, particularly in Spain and Greece, mining companies are finding it relatively easy to develop extraction sites that had been denied them by environmentalists and their supporters in government. Until the financial crisis destroyed the retail economies of these countries, it was possible to do without the physical destruction and public health damage that heavy industry brings to communities. Now the situation has changed and these failing economies need the jobs and revenue that heavy industry brings as a matter of extreme urgency.
I imagine that what were once very influential environmental concerns are being set aside and that planning regulations and the bureaucracy that goes with them are evaporating in the face of bold assurances from the mining corporations. Inmet Mining Corp. has recently opened a huge new copper mine 20 Km from the city of Seville. This development would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but changes in government and the economic climate have now made it a reality.
In her excellent book, ‘The Shock Doctrine’, Naomi Klein promotes her theory of Disaster Capitalism, by which corporations and governments take advantage of social, economic, natural and political crises to force changes and pursue their own economic and commercial interests. She identifies the current financial crisis as one of the catastrophic events that can be used to bring about change that would otherwise be impossible in 'normal' circumstances.
Thus we can view the move by Germany to create a fiscal union within the EU, something German bankers have wanted since the Euro was invented, as taking advantage of the current precarious financial situation in the Euro zone. Similarly we might look at the virtual rebirth of the heavy mining industry in Western Europe in a similar light. Perhaps the same thing will happen in Romania and the Rosia Montana project will go ahead after all, despite all the prolonged and influential opposition.
Naomi Klein may not be entirely correct in her thesis, where it concerns the crisis in Europe. It may be more likely that we are seeing some corporations and interests within the EU simply taking advantage of a situation that they did not create; after all, business gurus tell us that ‘every crisis is an opportunity’. However it is still interesting to analyze and understand the dynamics of commercial interest in extreme circumstances.
By Ronnie Smith, guest writer
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.
(Photo source: sxc.hu)