Rosia Montana gold mining project in the spotlight before UNESCO decision
Several days before the UNESCO decision on Romania's request for putting under protection the historic site at Rosia Montana - a gold mining site dating from the Roman Empire period - the topic climbs up high in the public agenda.
But what lacks is factual information - the signing of the concession contract, the obstacles faced by the investor in the gold mining project, the circumstances under which Romania requested UNESCO protection, the compatibility of the UNESCO protection with the gold mining project, the state of the lawsuit opened by the foreign investors - none of these details were openly explained by authorities on a neutral, not politically biased, note.
What is known is that Romania's Government of technocrats headed by prime minister Dacian Ciolos (now reformist USR PLUS) requested in 2017 to place the historic site under UNESCO protection.
At that time, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) - a foreign company that received in 1997, in association with a local state-owned company, a 20-year concession contract for a gold mining project, had already opened arbitration procedures against Romania at WB's arbitration tribunal.
Following environmentalists' protests and diverging views shared by the governments with diverse political orientations over the years, the final permits were not issued, and the project has stalled. Consequently, RMGC sued Romania at ICSID and asks for compensation.
Former finance minister Alexandru Nazare (PNL) reportedly claimed that Romania should pay USD 5 bln compensations if it puts the site under UNESCO protection (which would demonstrate the country's opposition to the gold mining project) and only EUR 1 bln if it withdraws the request for UNESCO protection. He reportedly recommended PM Florin Citu to withdraw the request from UNESCO.
It is frequently claimed that Romania placing the historic site under UNESCO protection is incompatible with the gold mining project, and consequently, it would demonstrate Romania's hostility against RMGC in the arbitration procedure. But this issue was never detailed by authorities.
Historian Adrian Cioroianu, former minister of foreign affairs, claims that this is not the case - the historic site is a limited area that stretches out of the gold mining project perimeter, he argues.
The green NGOs and USR PLUS, in contrast, ask for UNESCO protection as a step toward the termination of the gold mining project.
Prime minister Florin Citu does not share such radical views, and recently he voiced in favor of both UNESCO protection and the resumption of the gold mining project, when such an opportunity would occur - which put him under criticism not only from green activists but also from the junior ruling partner USR PLUS and even his Liberal rival Ludovic Orban.
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