Protests in Romania, Closure in Zimbabwe

Monday, 2 September, 2013

It is with a strange sense of timing that the day New Dawn Mining announced the layoffs of 900 workers from its recently closed Dalny gold mine in Zimbabwe, ‘thousands of Romanians’ took to the streets to protest the government’s plans to open what would be Europe’s largest open pit gold mine at Rosia Montana; a further twist added due to both companies concerned being Canadian. On Friday, the TSX listed New Dawn Mining declared the closure of its gold producing Dalny mine, with its inability to pay its electricity bills being the straw that broke the camel’s very beleaguered back. In Romania, TSX listed Gabriel Resources happily announced its partnership with the Romanian government to extract from Rosia Montana, North East Romania. ‘The project has reported resources of 17.1 million ounces of gold and 81.1 million ounces of silver (measured and indicated)’ according to Gabriel Resources, also stating that it’s mine would economically rejuvenate the ‘declining’ Rosia Montana area.

In stark disagreement, people in Bucharest and Cluj staged marches against the proposed mine, and there were even protests outside the Romanian embassy in London. One can forgive the Romanian people for being so sceptical about mining in their back yard: one of the worst mining disasters in recent times occurred in Romania in 2000, known as the Baia Mare cyanide spill, in which 100 tonnes of cyanide escaped into the Somes river, poisoning habitats as far as Serbia and Hungary and which to this day cannot be commercially fished.

The protests are a mirror to the recent clashes in the UK at Balcombe over the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration, and suggests that it is not just in the emerging markets where anti-mining sentiment is replete. Indeed, nearby, “a separate protest against shale gas exploration drew 2,000 people in the town of Barlad.” One wonders what these groups of people would have to say to each other should they ever meet, with the Zimbabwean workers laid off, they might feel aggrieved that a new gold mine opening in Romania should meet such resistance. At the very least, such parallels are clear indicators of the changing face of the commodities industry as it enters its own ‘age of austerity’.