Do-It-Yourself Romania: Exploring Mines at Roșia Montană

Roșia Montană is a highly controversial, inactive gold mine in Transylvania’s Apuseni Mountains that’s been written about extensively over the years.  Sam has expounded quite a bit on the topic already, so rather than beat a dead horse, I’ll refer you to a few of his articles.  What little I can add to the palimpsest of Roșia Montană content is an account of my own experience there with friends a few months back.

Originally we planned to visit the Roman mines near Roșia Montană first before seeing Big Red, but the surly guard at the entrance told us that we had missed the last tour and would have to wait a long time for the next.  So off to conquer the mountain we went.  We didn’t realize that there was a nice gradual trail that led up to the mine; instead we took a perilous route that culled half our group in minutes.

Those who soldiered on got to see a tremendous sight at the top—man’s disembowelment of the earth.


There were multiple mine shafts that were still partially accessible, though there had obviously been efforts made to barricade the entrances with rubble and debris.  The most accessible of the mines had a giant pit dug just before it, presumably so that the rubble blocking much of the entrance could be conveniently shoved down into the hole if the place were ever back in action.

Once inside, it was clear that these shafts were not places to be fucking around in.  I went far into one but quickly found it not worth venturing on.  There were cyanide tailings just above this particular shaft, and further on the tunnel was dripping with the poisonous stuff.  Another major hazard was the condition of the shafts themselves.  All the loose debris at the entrance was comprised of boulders that could easily kill you if they dislodged, and the entire tunnel seemed like it would crater if you raised your voice above a whisper.


Despite the desolate landscape, it was quite a interesting pit to walk around in.  There were beautiful rocks lying all around and the tailing ponds, despite being noxious as hell, were strangely alluring.  A friend of mine with a keen eye found a detonating cord in the rubble and began tugging on it, which is always nice.  That’s why we’re friends in the first place.

Another aspect of the area that’s noteworthy is the village itself.  There are lots of abandoned cottages and shacks formerly used by miners that you can enter at your own peril.  If you’re into urban (or rural) exploring, they’re blissful sights to behold.  You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the California Gold Rush, though with a slight Western Carpathian vibe.


Ultimately, I’d recommend that you see Roșia Montană for yourselves but not in the way that we did.  There are other safer tours of the area that you can take, particularly of the Roman mines, where you won’t run such a high risk of getting crushed by boulders, falling into pits, having cyanide drip on your head, or tripping over detonation cords.

But if that’s your thing then by all means make it a DIY adventure.

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