Thousands of people have protested in Romania after the government gave its support to the planned opening of the Rosia Montana gold mining project located in the area of a small Carpathian commune of the same name.
The Rosia Montana project is being implemented by Rosia Montana Gold, in which Canada-based Gabriel Resources is majority owner, with the Romanian Government holding a 20% stake in the project.
The Romanian Government has approved a draft law earlier this week that will allow Gabriel to carry out the project and give a larger stake to the Romanian Government in the project.
The company intends to use cyanide to mine about 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver.
Civil rights and environmental groups have fiercely opposed the project, saying that the use of cyanide would destroy the ancient Roman gold mines and villages.
Gabriel plans to open four quarries over the mine’s lifespan, which the rights groups say would destroy four mountain tops and three outlying villages in the Rosia Montana municipality.
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Romania President Traian Basescu was quoted by newspaper Adevarul’s website as saying that a referendum may be called next year on the Rosia Montana mine.
"The biggest scare about the Rosia Montana mine is the cyanide process, which should have been discussed with experts," Basescu added.
The Rosia Montana project is expected to cost about $7.5bn, based on a 2007 estimate, calculating the average price of gold at $900 per ounce.
Gold is currently trading around $1,390 per ounce.
Romanian parliament is expected to vote on the law later this month and Gabriel Resources is expecting to receive approval by November.
Image: Cetate open pit at Rosia Montana, which operated from 1971 until 2006. Photo: Gabriel Resources.