The Rosia Montana licensing procedure – harsh and hilly roads ahead

Save Rosia Montana

Court verdict irrevocably annuls urban plans for the Rosia Montana gold mine

The Alba Iulia Court of Appeal (file 5159/107/2010) released a verdict that annuls the juridical effects of Rosia Montana gold mine’s urban plans approved by the Rosia Montana Local County with decision no. 1 of January 2009. The verdict is a result of a court action introduced by Alburnus Maior (AM), the Independent Center for the Development of Environmental Resources (ICDER) and Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation. The verdict is irrevocable.

At the same day of the release of the verdict the minister for the environment of Romania stepped down and the shares of Gabriel Ressources, the mining company holding 80 % of the shares in Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, droped 23 %.


Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) is 80% owned by Gabriel Resources (TSX:GBU), a small, under-resourced and inexperienced Canadian mining company which plans to uproot the people of Rosia Montana to realize Europe's largest open-cast gold mine. 19,31% are owned by Minvest, a state-owned mining company. American miner Newmont (NTSE: NEM), American Electrum Strategic Holdings LLC and American Paulson & Co. each own just under 20% of Gabriel Resources. From its' onset the venture has been beleaguered by scandals, operational problems and vehement local, national and international opposition. 

Rosia Montana’s urban plans – the General Urbanistic Plan (PUG) and Zonal Urbanistic Plan (PUZ) for the Industrial Development Area of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) were exclusively financed by RMGC and submitted for approval to Rosia Montana’s Local Council in July 2002 to initiate the gold mine’s licensing procedure. The urban plans banned any kind of economic activity in the area under the project’s footprint. The change of Rosia Montana’s status from a residential area into an industrial area also saw the inception of the relocation and resettlement of the local population and the entire public infrastructure (schools, local medical unit, roads etc.). Since 2002 RMGC’s Urban Plans blocked numerous local development initiatives in areas such as tourism, agriculture, services etc. because the plans prohibited the construction of new buildings; including on private property.

During all the years while the Urban Plans were in place, they were constantly contested by AM; due to the flagrant illegalities that determined those Plans existence in the first place. The majority of the local counselors, who endorsed the Urban Plans with their vote, were at that time in conflict of interests due to the fact that either they themselves or close relatives were RMGC employees. The directly affected population was never consulted by the Local Council, which, in its turn didn’t even follow the legal procedures to obtain all preliminary approvals for PUG and PUZ.

On 23 January 2008, following a court action introduced by AM, the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal has ascertained the illegality of Rosia Montana’s urban plans. Legally this decision should have lead to the invalidation of the entire licensing procedure carried out by RMGC until then, including the invalidation of the EIA procedure at the level of the Ministry for the Environment. Unsurprisingly, the company circumvented the effects of this court ruling, turning to a solution of a unique juridical exoticism that allowed it to continue the licensing procedure for the Rosia Montana gold mine: the company submitted the exact documentation declared illegal by the court to the approval of the new Local Council at Rosia Montana which, the company claimed, was no longer in a situation of conflicts of interests towards the decision. The new Rosia Montana local council issued decision no. 1 of January 2009 to “re-confirm, with retroactive effects”, the decisions of the previous Local Council to approve PUG and PUZ for the Rosia Montana gold mine.

The route ahead to the current stage of the Rosia Montana EIA procedure at the level of the Ministry for the Environment has been smooth and clear: based on decision 1 of January 2009, the Alba County Council issued a new urban certificate for RMGC, no. 87 of 30.04.2010. This act was submitted by RMGC to the Ministry for the Environment which in return re-grouped the Technical Analysis Committee to continue the analysis procedure of RMGC’s environmental impact assessment study. Based on the same decision, in March 2011, the Regional Environmental Protection Agency of Sibiu approved an environmental avis for the updated industrial development area of Rosia Montana.

The Ministry for the Environment is now under the impossibility to continue the Rosia Montana EIA procedure. The two NGOs will take immediate steps to officially notify the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal’s verdict to the Ministry for the Environment as well as to other ministeries that currently asses various segments of the Rosia Montana gold mine proposal.

„We are delighted by the response of the relevant courts to sanction these grave illegalities committed in the Rosia Montana licensing procedure. The two NGOs have also initiated the procedures to ask the annulment of the urban certificate no. 87 of 30.04.2010 and of the environmental avis of March 2011 and we estimate that the annulment of the urban plans for the Rosia Montana gold mine will provide solid grounds for the annulment of these consecutive acts”, declares Attorney Dr. Marius Liviu Harosa who represents the two plaintiffs in courts.

„For us appealing to the courts to prove the grave illegalities comitted by the mining company to advance in the Rosia Montana gold mine proposal is a fundamental right and we will use it until a just and equitable situation has been restored for Rosia Montana’s heritage, environment and local population. For us that also includes the appeal to procedures to activate individual responsibility, be it civil, administrative or criminal, of those public servants and high officials that allow the Rosia Montana licensing procedure to advance in spite of those flagrant illegalities and abuses”, declares Eugen David, President of Alburnus Maior. 

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