Gabriel Resources to pursue investor-state claim against Romania over gold mine

Photo: Rosia MontanaWhitehorse-based Gabriel Resources is preparing an international arbitration case against the Romanian government because it rejected the proposed Rosia Montana gold and silver mine. This massive open-pit mine in the Carpathian mountains would use cyanide to mine about 314 tons of ton of gold and 1,500 tons of silver. It would involve destroying mountainsides, displacing about 2,000 villagers, and creating a 300-hectare toxic tailings pond.

The company has previously threatened it may seek up to $4 billion "for multiple breaches of investment treaties" if the mine were blocked.

The Globe and Mail now reports, "Gabriel Resources is making plans for the case, which probably would be heard in Vienna in the second half of the year... Gabriel, which is listed on the Toronto stock exchange, (is) run from London... The company will give no details of its strategy, however, and has not said which investment treaties it would use to support its case."

The report comments, "International commercial arbitration in general, and arbitration cases against governments in particular, are becoming increasingly popular, to the point they are gaining favour over traditional courtroom litigation. The rise of bilateral investment treaties has triggered a surge in arbitration case against governments, which are handled through the World Bank’s arbitration court, known as ICSID – International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. International commercial arbitration cases are adjudicated behind closed doors, tend to be shorter than courtroom litigation and produce final decisions that cannot be appealed, though they are not necessarily cheaper."

"The Romanian parliament’s chamber of deputies is scheduled to vote on a bill that would give special legal status to the $1.5-billion (U.S.) project, allowing it to go ahead, on May 7. But the company does not expect the vote to go in its favour, partly because public opposition to the mine and its cyanide-based extraction technology remains strong."

Last December, the Council of Canadians joined with MiningWatch Canada, MiningWatch Romania, Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace Romania and other groups to denounce in an open letter the proposed Rosia Montana mine in Romania. That letter received international media coverage.

We continue to stand in solidarity with our Romanian allies who are opposed to this mine and we will continue to monitor this situation. We are particularly taking note of Gabriel's threat to use investment treaties (perhaps the Canada-Romania Foreign Investment Protection Agreement, or in the future perhaps the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) against the expressed democratic wishes of the Romanian people and against the land and water of Romania.

Photo: Rosia Montana