Thousands of people marched through the streets of Bucharest last night (September 8) in one of the biggest protests against the Rosia Montana mining project since demonstrations began a week ago.
Banging drums, shaking bottles, ringing cow bells, blowing horns and shouting, among other chants, “united we save Rosia Montana”, the group marched for about two hours in a clockwise loop around downtown Bucharest beckoning those looking down from apartment blocks to “wake up” and join.
With a core base of young activists, the procession, watched closely by riot police, included in its ranks, families, couples and older residents, as well as numerous young children, many riding on their parent’s shoulders.
Her one-year-old daughter Ilinca by her side, Anca Cojocaru, 34, shouted, above the whistles, cheers and drums: “Rosia Montana is part of our national heritage’”.
“I want for my daughter to have a country where culture and nature are not destroyed.”
Protests across the country began on Sunday, September 1, after the Government backed a draft bill that will allow Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) to begin extracting gold in central Romania.
By classifying the project as a “special national interest”, the law aims to smooth what would otherwise be a complicated legal path for the company, which is majority owned by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources.
Marching towards Universitate, businessman Alexandru Stolz, 43, said he was moved to join the procession to protest what he considered the laws’ complete illegality.
“This is a very targeted movement, it’s not about general dissatisfaction with the government,” Stolz said.
“It’s about this passing of legislation that is against the constitution and general laws. It sets a dangerous precedent that can infringe on private property rights. It’s not undemocratic, it’s illegal.”
“If more people begin to know about this I hope that Parliament will not dare.”
Management consultant Alexander Fuhrman, 58, of Bucharest, also took aim at the draft law’s "illegality".
“Basically I think the main issue is the very bad way, the very abusive way this law has been passed to parliament,” he said.
“It is a bad law that gives a private company a lot of power and leeway that can be abused very easily.”
Proponents of the project, including Romanian president Traian Basescu, have argued the mine would bring jobs and investment to an impoverished area of the country as well as yielding a sizable return for the state.
However critics of the plan cite the use of cyanide leeching to extract gold, as well as the environmental destruction wrought on the landscape as reasons to scrap the current proposal.
Angelica Caliman, a volunteer with the campaign to stop the Rosia Montana project, said she didn’t oppose extracting the gold, silver and minerals but strongly disagreed with the plans of RMGC, which she said would trample historical sites, ruin the environment and cheated Romanians financially.
“I would like people to be aware and get informed and to come here if they really care about the future of this country and to be aware of what legacy we want to leave to the next generation,” the 31-year-old said.
An energetic atmosphere border lining on festive at certain points – especially for protesters walking near the trumpet player – the march, said Ana Cinca, 33, was an "awesome" example of solidarity.
“We are not the kind of people to march like this when something’s not important.”
Vlad Ioachinescu, a 36-year-old university teacher, said as demonstrators communicated via Facebook and other social networking sites, the campaign would continue to grow despite receiving only minor coverage by the mainstream press.
“(The politicians) are scared. They tried to ignore us, tried to make as go home but they will not succeed.”
Similar protests were organized in other Romanian cities on Sunday evening, with the largest in Cluj - Napoca, where about 6,000 protesters blocked traffic downtown. Among them was the wife of Cluj Napoca mayor Emil Boc. Similar protests took place in Braşov, Alba Iulia, Bistriţa, Sfântu Gheorghe, Suceava and Iaşi, where tens to hundreds of people protested against the planned gold mine.
By Shaun Turton, [email protected]
(photo credits: Shaun Turton/Romania-Insider.com)