Now Chevron Falling to Romanian Public

Monday, 28 October, 2013

The Romanian public has sent further signals of its hostility towards mineral and energy extraction after energy giant Chevron announced it would not proceed with exploration in the country after public protests against their project. As the dust settles from the Rosia Montana standoff in the summer, this new incident shows that Rosia Montana was not a one off, but part of an underlying discontent and mistrust of extractive industries.

Chevron had planned to begin exploring for shale gas in the northeast of the country, near a town called Pungesti. Yet opposition was strong, with 800 locals protesting and blocking routes, and community consultations descending in ‘shouting matches’, Chevron decided to halt any further activity.

What is really interesting about the Reuters report is the fact that the locals had been largely informed by the internet; Youtube in particular being a key resource for information on the issues of extraction. Despite the alleged levels of poverty in the region, it should be clear now that digital media transcends macroeconomic rankings, with many of the poorest parts of the world being equipped with mobile phones, laptops and internet.

In response to this, the extractive industry has been largely cumbersome, with the majority of miners and energy companies offering very little online dialogue to the public. Websites are still orientated towards the shareholders with public and popular concerns often mentioned in passing under basic Sustainability or CSR pages (See our CSR database for examples). In contrast, environmental groups and civil organizations offer a far better and more committed online presence.

Until a ‘paradigm shift’ in attitudes from the sector towards the political efficacy of the public arises, (as this ICMM report suggests), then resource companies can’t express too much dismay when they hear about the public being informed against them by Youtube et al. The idea that government acquiescence is the pinnacle of a company’s license to operate should be checked by the rapid growth of digital media.