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.