An article published on the September protests against a proposed gold mining project in the Apuseni mountains, Romania on Hotnews. This was one of the first pieces of reportage published directly from the massive demonstration. Below it’s in English and the link here in Romanian: http://www.contributors.ro/reactie-rapida/salvarea-rosiei-montane-nu-mai-are-legatura-doar-cu-rosia-montana-e-o-miscare-ecologica-anti-elita-axata-pe-dragostea-de-tara/
Opposition to the multi-billion Euro mining project of Rosia Montana is becoming a touchstone for anger at the gap between public consent and the interests of an elitist Romanian leadership, revealed 1 September’s extensive and peaceful protests in Bucharest, Romania and throughout the world.
The proposed extraction project has become a symbol for the contempt with which the Romanian people believe they are held by their elected bosses.
Most of the protestors have not been to the Apuseni mountains to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of the 14-year old project to blow up some hills and extract gold using cyanide.
Their reaction to the project is often emotional and the directors of the project have an answer for every argument.
The protestors do not like the project because it will poison the water system (this is speculation), it will destroy mountains (they will be put back), wreck the cultural heritage (the Roman-era mines themselves, but one can argue it is honoring the spirit of the mines by keeping them in use) and foreigners are stealing Romanian assets (they will create jobs, pay tax and offer up royalties).
Yet however hard the representatives of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation attempt a charm offensive on opinion formers, journalists and business leaders, in the hope that their view will trickle down the population, they fail. And they keep on failing. Why? Because Romanians don’t want foreigners blowing up their mountains and extracting their gold using cyanide. And the project bosses can’t extract the gold without blowing up the mountains and using cyanide.
The project has been going on so long and opposition to the project is so endemic to much of the Romanian population, that regardless of the merits of the plan, to oppose the mine is almost an instinct – such as opposing War, AIDS or the clubbing to death of baby seals.
But now it has grown into something else. It has become a symbol of a people who feel they have lost control of the democratic process, especially when they vote for a Government in 2012 – the Social Liberal Union (USL) – which then appears to betray its promise to dump the mine. The incompetence of the USL is so evident, that Prime Minister Victor Ponta can’t event support or oppose the project. He leads and misleads. He is not sitting on the fence – he is sitting on two fences at once. This will hurt.
The frustration between the irreconcilability between honesty and power in Romania manifested itself last night in a vast show of people from diverse backgrounds and with different, sometimes opposing, views and intentions.
They are the first public representation of the mass of people who did not vote in last year’s elections. The silent majority now have a megaphone.
Young people galvanised to demonstrate through social media, students, the corporate middle-classes, anti-communists, yummy-mummies, unionists, anarchists, members of the far right, football fans from competing Bucharest teams Steaua and Dinamo, hippies, members of parliament, artists, hipsters, bongo-drummers and a large number of beagles (with their owners – they did not arrive independently).
The only absence seemed to be protestors paid by political parties to act as agent provocateurs – which is a welcome change for Bucharest’s activist community.
In other words, these were actual people. And what united them? It seemed to be a love of country. A strong sense of national pride. Pride in the environment. Pride in their history. Pride in their culture. A sense that the preservation of that environment, history and culture was being removed from their hands by an elite who seem to remain in power regardless of the result of elections.
There is no leadership yet coalescing around the intent of this diverse group and its unity could collapse as quickly as it solidified.
But a sensibility seems to be swelling up, which is pro-green and pro-national.
On the opposing cheeks of the protesters, it was common to see the green and red leaf symbol of the Save Rosia Montana movement balanced by one of the Romanian tricolor.
It’s a new face for Romania.