Miruna Codeanu

Rosia Montana

In espresso on September 17, 2013 at 9:27 am

Feel warned: my opinion is not appealing to any of the sides.

Honestly, I really tried to avoid writing about Rosia Montana. There is some instinctual tendency to know “the truth”, I really tried to find out the truth. “The truth” is that there is not no truth. There are, many individual truths and there are gradual differences.  6 years ago I wrote my final thesis on Rosia Montana. I spent 10 days in Rosia Montana and interviewed people on both sides. The ones against the project are easier to find because they still live in Rosia Montana while the ones who didn’t have strong feelings against the project already sold their houses to the company. However, there are still people who agree with the exploitation and still live in Rosia Montana. There are also neutral opinions, though it may seem hard to believe a Rosia Montana inhabitant can be neutral on such a matter. Unless you already have an opinion on Rosia Montana, when you actually go to Rosia Montana, eveything around you confuses you even more. I remember I left Rosia Montana wondering if I would ever discover “the truth”. I returned to Bucharest with interviews, reports, files,  movies, leaflets.

I had absolutely no clue where to start. I went to the library and started reading on mining. Most common problem with mining: social costs. Only that there was no mining at Rosia Montana. There were however social costs: the social costs of indecision and conflict. Step by step I built my case around a thesis: the social costs of conflict at Rosia Montana. My thesis is not interesting for the current debate, but researching the subject I managed to gather quite a lot of information, World Bank reports on mining, social costs and CSR, social conflict, community, etc and of course, probably the most valuable part of the research: actually talking to the people. Not being on any side gave me the opportunity to ask more and more questions, to let myself convinced by each of the parts. Ah, minus an official opinion of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation. I’ve had some unofficial interviews with Rosia Montana Gold Corporation employees, but when I asked for an official opinion and tried to contact anybody from the company was denied access. Back then I was a sociology student with a passion and some experience in PR and Marketing. From a Marketer’s point of view, the company had a problem. I even remember John Aston, their former CSR adviser explaining a problem managing external communication the company had. And the company still has it. Dragos Tanase, their CEO, might be a good manager, but he is a lousy communicator, losing his temper, not being able to offer the emphatic approach which would be so much needed in this context.

So, RMGC had two major problems: they are were dealing with an extremely  vulnerable subject – cyanide mining and they were failing to communicate about it which made the whole thing even more vulnerable. However, they were always pretty good at advertising and media coverage. Problem is they failed to communicate in a way that was vital to this project. The counterpart was clearly much more available and open, and, probably charming (by charming we mean that of a charismatic leader to be found in the person of Eugen David). The opponents had two representatives in Rosia Montana-Alburnus Maior and Soros Foundation. Why two different organizatiosn for one cause, isnt’ it better together? Yes, but they were together, and then they became two independent organization, wanting the same thing: to prevent the project from happening. However, they were able to deliver official answers, unlike the company. The accusations were numerous from the ones rejecting Rosia Montana Gold Corporation and the counterarguments none. You’ve probably heard about them: Frank Timis, the lack of information on the agreement the Romanian state, no environmental insurance for the project,  the estimated value for the natural resources too small, and the biggest, most obvious: cyanide. The huge advertising budget would mean there’s a huge return. That I know for a fact: the ROI should be directly proportional with the cost. The company wasn’t offering any official statement.

The opponents: there are at least two organizations against the project in Rosia Montana: Alburnus Maior and Soros Foundation. First problem: why two, why not together? Secondly, I was a sociology student, I had had some interactions with people who do not have political education, I know how they sound, Eugen David’s speech is not part of them. When you hear Eugen David speak it is clear that his opinion is that of someone with higher education. How come? Trying to weigh questions on both parts, clearly, there are more problems with Rosia Montana Gold Corporation.

There’s also a third part: the Romanian government. You know there’s a completely legal way to convince a state to act in your favor and it’s called lobbying. If this is the result of lobbying, this is will be the first case study for a time when private actors give birth to the dystopian script.

6 years have passed since then. I’ve watched the project from time to time. I’ve watched the price of gold on the market. I’ve watched the news on their shares. I also happen to know there was a time when the exploitation could have happened, only that it wasn’t happening. Also, I happen to know facts about social costs of mining throughout the world and they are not pretty. I regard myself as a quite rational human being and I can’t skip a connection between George Soros, his mining affairs and this opposition. Every opposition must have its funding sources and it’s usually the competitors. However, cyanide, a project that doesn’t have environmental insurance, a company with previous problems and a corrupt state are not a fortunate recipe. This is the recipe for disaster in all African states and World Bank reports describe African mining affairs like this.

PS: Here’s my thesis (unfortunately, Romanian only) Costurile Sociale ale Conflictului de la Rosia Montana


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