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Romanian anti-mining activists inspired by Occupy movement

Al Jazeera reports, “The nationwide protest movement (in Romania), calling themselves ‘United We Save’ are demanding an end to environmentally harmful mining projects, curbing corruption, and higher spending on health and education. ….(Many) are now out on the streets, inspired by the Occupy movement and the uprisings in Egypt and Turkey earlier this year. ‘We have awakened’, reads one of their banners.”

“The movement began this September, when the government drafted a law to speed up a controversial mining project that has been in the works for 15 years. The law would allow the Canadian company Gabriel Resources to bypass legal hurdles and expropriate property in the mountain town of Rosia Montana to open Europe’s largest gold mine. The mine would raze mountaintops to extract an estimated 314 tons of gold and 1,500 tons of silver. …Activists argue that the environmental risk of using cyanide in mining is too high, that Romania would see few of the benefits and that the operations would destroy 2,000-year-old mining galleries dug by the Romans…”

“Most (of those in the movement) favour a decentralised model (of organising). The movement claims to have only community organisers, not leaders. ‘Everyone is his own leader’, says Cosmin Pojoranu, one of the administrators of the movement’s Facebook page. ‘It’s a mentality still subtle for many: You have an idea, just do it. Don’t wait for anyone’s approval.’ Earlier this month, the protesters met with members of Spain’s ‘Indignados’ (‘The Outraged’) movement and announced that they planned to adopt their model, organising into smaller activist groups to focus on a variety of issues.”

“Last week, the Romanian Senate voted overwhelmingly against the plan, with 119 senators opposed and only three in favour. The project could still technically come to fruition if Romania’s House of Representatives votes in favour of the bill, but the prime minister said the project was ‘closed’ and the president has said he won’t sign the bill if it is passed. …President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta (have both) accused each other of taking bribes from the company. Ponta had opposed the mining project when his Social Democratic Party was in the opposition. …But he has since changed his mind, and supported a law to jump-start the project until it was rejected by the Senate.”

There is still concern that the Rosia Montana mine could be approved through a new mining bill now in the works. There is also concern that Gabriel Resources will use the investor-state provision in the Canada-Romania investment agreement to sue Romania for billions of dollars in lost profits.

Further reading

Romanian commission says no to Canadian gold mine