The Curious Case of Rosia Montana


sosrosiamontana

It’s an interesting commentary on my work here on this website that for nearly three years I’ve written about everything Romanian from the smallest thing to the biggest thing and yet I’ve never once mentioned Rosia Montana and yet no one has ever asked me why.

If you’re just getting to know Romania, the struggle over Rosia Montana is about a mountainous area in this country that contains a shitload of gold. The government, or parts of the government depending on what day of the week it is, plus the bankers that Romania is indebted to all want to sell off the gold mining rights to a private firm. The government will get cash up front and then a cut on what’s produced.

There is stiff resistance to this proposed sale from a small minority of people who want to preserve the area’s rustic culture exactly as it was and from a huge majority of people because the proposed method to mine the gold is to use a metric fuck ton of cyanide to strip the gold out of the mountain. Therefore there is enormous opposition to anything that anticipates wide-scale environmental damage.

Everyone you meet “on the street” will be opposed to Rosia Montana because there’s no perceived benefit. On one hand, the cyanide and mining process is almost sure to fuck up the environment. And on the other hand, nobody trusts the government that any money received from Rosia Montana will be spent honestly and fairly to improve people’s lives here. What is there to support about that?

This issue has been stalemated for years. The gold mining is “just about to get started” and then it doesn’t. And year after year there’s a big musical concert in Rosia Montana that raises money to help lobby against the gold mining deal going through.

So where’s the solution? How can we keep the environment beautiful and unharmed and yet not let such a lucrative resource go to waste? And if it’s the people’s gold (which it is), how can we fairly assure that it will go to the people and not a few corrupt businessmen and their political flunkies?

In other words, how can we simultaneously:

1) Keep the environment healthy
2) Mine the gold
3) Benefit the people

It’s quite a quandary because it seems impossible and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. That’s why I never wrote about Rosia Montana before. At long last though, I have found a solution which will accomplish all three.

Pretend like the year is 1849. Young men from all over the country, armed with pickaxes and a horse-drawn cart flocked to certain areas of California to mine gold. Some succeeded and some didn’t but it was an equal opportunity for everyone. By yourself or working together with other people, with a little hard work and a lot of luck you could strike it rich.

The solution to mining the gold without using cyanide and other insanely toxic methods is to just stick to 1849 rules. If it wasn’t around in 1849, you can’t use it. That means you get a shovel and a pickaxe and can use horses and wagons but nothing more advanced than that.

If you’re sitting in some crummy village in Romania and you want to make some money, here’s your chance. Beg, borrow or steal a way to get here and get digging. Finders keepers. You get the gold, it’s yours.

That’s the rough plan. Sketch in a few details like preserving law and order and the enforcement of standard taxes and I think it’s a great detail. Limiting the technology to 1849 will keep a lid on the worst of the environmental damage and opening it up to the people will help eradicate the corruption and cronyism issues. Quite frankly it’ll shut up a few complainers because then you can tell them, “If you’re so poor and desperate, grab a shovel and get to Rosia Montana then.”

I realize my proposal sounds “silly” but it’s a hell of a lot more democratic than what we WILL get in the end, that’s for sure.

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17 Responses »

  1. the poor richy Romania…

  2. Well, the main flaw in your plan is that the gold deposits from 1849 California and 2013 Rosia Montana are vastly different. For one, in California you would have found pieces of gold, those so-called “gold nuggets”, whereas at Rosia Montana the gold is only extractable by chemical processes, the concentration being about a few grams per ton. So your solution of digging with shovels and pickaxes is not applicable!

  3. all of this predates the egyptian culture…the roman …the greek…everything…
    i say bring those canadians in!!!!! they re in for a treat!!!

  4. Oh boy, Sam, I wished you’d realize how disappointing it is to see the quality of your posts go lower and lower with each day that passes. I know you never answer our comments (this alone is also disappointing), and now I start to believe that you don’t even bother to read them. Otherwise, we should be able to see some improvement. Instead, you’re getting worse every day, and this new post shows it.

    I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. That’s why I never wrote about Rosia Montana before.

    And you had better not written about it today either. Instead of spending a lot of time thinking, you should have tried to study the issue before posting nonsense and embarrassing yourself. You would have found out that the traditional small scale underground mining employed in the area for some 2,000 years is no longer useful today. You would have learned that for very low gold concentrations in ores (i.e. less than 10 g/t), the use of aqueous chemical (hydrometallurgical) extraction processes involving cyanide leaching is the only economically viable method of extracting the gold from the ore.

    At long last though, I have found a solution…

    If you would have bothered to look into the issue (before coming with such a stupid “solution”), you would have learned that today the Roşia Montană area offers only lower-grade gold disseminated through the rock. The gold there is currently found in very small particles in the rock composition, and the reserves were found to have an average contents of 1.46 g/t Au. This is 7 (seven) times (!) below the limit under which mining for gold makes sense only in an open-cast pit and using tons of cyanide.

    I realize my proposal sounds “silly”… “Silly”? Try “plain stupid”, maybe!

    And now you know!

  5. Oh, and just so you know, RMGC will NEVER be allowed to go forward with their plans to irremediably destroy Roşia Montană’s environment, history, culture…

    Vai ce bine!

    • I’m not sure. I hate to state the obvious, but RMGC has a lot of money thus a lot of influence. Poor people have neither.

      • Well, it’s been already 14 years since the company has secured the concession license no. 47/1999 for the exploitation of gold and silver ores in the Roşia Montană area. And all that lot of money thus a lot of influence didn’t matter much.

      • Yet. I hope you would prove right though.

  6. Yes, 14 years and counting! I met some determined Romanians at the last FanFest in Rosia Montana who will not give up easily their effort to block the re-opening of the gold mine exploitation.Other economic solutions must be found, that will keep the village alive, instead of corrupting poor villagers with money in order to move them out of their ancestral lands, along with their ”deads”! Only the thought of having to exhume corpses and re-bury them in unknown territories gives you the true color of the affair…despicable!

    • I think not honoring our agreements does far more damage to Romania and to Romanians than the environmental damage from the mines.

      • What agreements are you talking about? So far Romania has signed no agreement for the gold mining at Rosia Montana. It is not Romania’s fault that RMGC is not able to produce all the documents needed in order to receive all the necessary approvals and start mining. So who is not honoring whose agreements?

    • Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff preiuovs to and you are just extremely fantastic. I really like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read far more from you. This is really a great site.

  7. Andy Hockley pointed out a rather good BBC podcast on the situation in Rosia Montana, sedding light on all parties and arguments involved: http://szekely.blogspot.be/2012/09/podcats-recommendation-on-rosia-montana.html

    • Oops, mixed up my email and name – can this be corrected?

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  8. your article is nice and the beginning pictures pretty much what most people or rmgc are fighting for, but unfortunately the solution is at most very superficial :)
    here’s another simple solution: keep the resource there until we have the technology to extract it without damaging the environment, in a sustainable manner.
    the idea behind this solution is also very basic: why do we all assume Romania will die out of hunger tomorrow unless we exploit any mineral resource we have in the country? that’s like hoping playing russian roulette for a cash prize and saying that you do it cause otherwise you’d not be able to make a good living.

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