How Roșia Montană became the subject of political and international dispute for over a decade

The Roșia Montană file remains a sensitive subject, being a topic that has led both to internal attacks, regarding the interests that some politicians would have, directly or indirectly, but also a business that was said to have famous names behind it international, like George Soros.

George Soros was suspected of involvement in the protests related to Roșia Montană PHOTO EPA EFE

George Soros was suspected of involvement in the protests related to Roșia Montană PHOTO EPA EFE

According to the decision of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) from Washington announced on Friday, Romania won the case filed by Gabriel Resources regarding the prevention of the exploitation of deposits from Roșia Montană.

Although Gabriel Resources lost the case, the company has recently seen a rise in its share price. The subject of increasing the value of these shares has led to political friction.

Internal clicks

Initially, the president of USR, Cătălin Drula, claimed that through his statements, Marcel Ciolacu influenced the price of shares on the stock exchange. The direct response came from the PSD senator, Daniel Zamfir. “Mr. Drula has shares in Roșia Montana through an intermediaryi”, said Daniel Zamfir, in a telephone intervention, on Antena 3.

What exchange are we talking about, what am I playing at the Exchange? Maybe they play on the stock market and you know well that they play on the stock market, but the problem is that they played with Romania's money“, stated Marcel Ciolacu, for his part. The allusion was to the fact that Drula had shares indirectly, through Swiss Capital, in Gabriel Resources. “Following some false information released in the public space by several publications, Cătălin Drula, the president of USR states that he does not own shares in Gabriel Resources or Swiss Capital. Cătălin Drula has shares worth 2,400 lei, bought in 2008, in an investment fund called Active Dinamic, managed by Swiss Capital. And, that investment fund does not hold shares in the BRK broker mentioned in the false information articles“, states the USR press release.

Swiss Capital Catalin Drula jpg

The first tensions

The first tensions related to Roșia montană began in 2013, after in 2010 several organizations began to put forward the proposal that the locality apply for admission as a UNESCO site (the file was to be submitted at the beginning of 2017).

On August 27, 2013, the Ponta-led Government voted on the draft law regulating the exploitation of ores in the Roşia Montană perimeter, to be sent to the Parliament for approval.

Thus, on September 1, 2013, over 4,000 people protested in the Capital, against the mining operation in Roşia Montană. People chanted against the law, even demanding the resignation of the Ponta Government. The protests continued in the following days, in several cities in the country, and on September 22, for example, around 15,000 demonstrators again participated in a new march against the given project.

According to Gândul, the Soros Foundation, established by the controversial billionaire George Soros, would have been behind all protest movements against the Roșia Montană mining project, directly or through intermediate NGOs, from the very beginning. Among the names mentioned by the protesters who stood out in the street are Claudiu Crăciun, the coordinator of the protests in University Square, from September 2013. Crăciun would then have benefited from a two-year research grant in Budapest, on the cover of which he appears Open Society Institute (Soros) and Central European University Budapest (funded by Soros). Another name is that of Mihail Bumbeș, from the Spiritual Militia, and the only publicly declared activities of the organization are the two financed by CEE Trust (Soros). As Adevărul reported, in December 2013, the two characters (Mihail Bumbeş, Claudiu Crăciun) were involved in the rallies opposing the Roşia Montană project and the exploitation of shale gas.

George Soros's opposition to the Roșia Montană project was, however, older. In April 2007, six years before the protests began, Roșia Montană Gold Corporation itself presented a letter from the businessman, in which he expressed his opposition, in a press conference in Bucharest. And “Adevărul” signaled since 2013 the clash of interests of George Soros and Benny Steinmetz, investor in Roșia Montană, both in Romania and in other countries around the world.

Budapest and Rosia Montana

According to Gâ, in recent years there have also been irredentist actions regarding Roșia Montană. “Over time, there have been irredentist actions associated with the Roșia Montană project, both in Romania and internationally. Since 2004, irredentist protest movements have been organized in the United States of America, in New York, associated with the Roșia Montană (Verespatak) mining project, requesting Romania to return Hungarian properties, stop Hungarian repression and ban the use of cyanide in Rosia Montana (Verespatak)“, says the quoted source.

In July 2021, a pro-government publication of the Government from Budapest, Executive led by Viktor Orban, claimed that the gold from Roşia Montană should never be exploited, the question being asked whose town in the Apuseni Mountains actually is, after as reported by “The Truth”.

In Roşia Montana, located in the “golden square”, there was still no notion of cyanide mining, or the destruction of the surrounding nature, respectively of culture (…) “We must also mention here Octavian Goga's poem “Our mountains bear gold , We beg from door to door”, applied to the illustration that accompanies this material. The beginning of the illustrated poem says a lot here, because we only have to ask the question: Since when does Roşia Montana belong to Romania? That's why we hope that the 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver will remain in the native land (…) respectively who knows how much platinum, molybdenum that foreign companies are hoping for. At least as long as the golden mill wheel of history does not turn“, writes Magyar Nemzet, a pro-government publication, quoted by Rador.

Inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage

The first steps regarding what it means to include Rosia Montana in the UNESCO Heritage were initiated in 2016. An analysis carried out by the law firms Lalive (Switzerland) and Leaua (Romania), engaged by the Romanian state in the international process, claimed that such an approach increases the chances Gabriel Resources to win the lawsuit.

The analysis sent to Romanian officials was dated December 2016. Corina Şuteu, former Minister of Culture in the Cioloş Government, sent the file to UNESCO on her last day of mandate, on January 4, 2017. The procedure was suspended during the period when the Government was led by Viorica Dancila. The proposal to include Roșia Montana in UNESCO was resumed at the beginning of 2021, by Bogdan Gheorghiu, at the request of the USR, which was part of the governing coalition with the PNL. The application was accepted on 27 July 2021 by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th extended session in Fouzhou, China.