21 September, 2015 - Bacău Court of Justice admitted on 09.16.2015 the claims of Alburnus Maior, the Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources and Salvați Bucureștiul associations for suspending the legal effects of the environmental permit of the Zonal Urban Plan - industrial development area Roșia Montană (PUZ).
Roșia Montană, 21. September 2015 - Bacău Court of Justice admitted on 09.16.2015 the claims of Alburnus Maior, the Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources and Salvați Bucureștiul associations for suspending the legal effects of the environmental permit of the Zonal Urban Plan - industrial development area Roșia Montană (PUZ). The environmental approval was issued by the regional Environmental Protection Agency Sibiu (ARPM Sibiu) in March 2011. The adjournment decision is effective as of the moment it was passed, and the recourse does not suspend the judgement effects - the document remains suspended until the resolution of a potential recourse by the Bacău Court of Appeal. At present the Zonal Urban Plan (PUZ) regulating the industrial area does not produce any legal effects in the absence of the associated environmental approval. Consequently no subsequent procedures based on this act, such as obtaining the environmental agreement and issuing the construction permit, can be legally undertaken.
The court action for suspending the above mentioned environmental permit was initiated in 2012. Upon the request of Roșia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC), the trial was transferred to Bacău Court of Justice. The company maintained that the extensive protest movements ongoing in Cluj-Napoca at that time (September 2013) could have influenced the judges' conscience.
The first Urban Planning documents for Roșia Montană (General Urban Plan and Zonal Urban Plan for the Industrial Development Area) were prepared by RMGC and adopted by the Local Council of Roșia Montană in 2002. These underlay the interdiction to any economic activity and even to residential activities on the area expected to be required for the mining project. The change of destination from residential to mono-industrial area resulted in the partial relocation of the resident population and of some public buildings such as the school or the medical dispensary. At the same time, starting 2002, the urban plans have blocked many local initiatives to develop private businesses in tourism, agriculture or services.
In parallel with the legal action to suspend the environmental permit issued by ARPM Sibiu, the same associations initiated an action to have the document annulled. Upon the request of Roșia Montană Gold Corporation, the trial was transferred to Covasna Court of Justice. On 04.15.2014 the Covasna Court sustained the action and annulled the environmental permit. All the other parties lodged an appeal, which is currently on trial at the Brașov Court of Appeal. The adjournment recently ordered by the Bacău Court is effective until the resolution of the recourse at the Brașov Court of Appeal, considering that the solution of this latter instance refers to the irrevocable annulment of the document, therefore its definitive removal from the legal circuit.
It should be mentioned that the environmental approval under discussion was issued by ARPM Sibiu following a procedure initiated in 2006. The document has been intensively challenged ever since by many local people and organisations involved in the Save Roșia Montană campaign. As shown above, 4 more years elapsed since the document's issuance until the first annulment judgement. Not at all accidentally, the "special law" for Roșia Montană proposed by the Ponta Government in September 2013 provided that, should an act issued for the project development be annulled in court, the issuing authority shall issue a new one within... 30 days.
"These Urban Plans have been for many years a big injustice for the local people in Roșia Montană. A Canadian mining company came and used its influence to tell us, people from Rosia, that we may not live here and we may not develop our community. This should be a lesson learned for all mining companies that their permits obtained most probably illegally are good for squeezing money from investors, not for the sustainable development of the Apuseni Mountains", said Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior.
"The Government has on the table all necessary documents to win the arbitration at Washington. Gabriel Resources claims absurd compensations although we have proved, by the large number of processes won over the years, that the Roșia Montană mining project is illegal. We made all these efforts to prevent an illegal project from progressing, now it's time for the Government to turn these judgements into convincing arguments in front of the arbitrators at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes", said Stefania Simion on behalf of the legal team of Alburnus Maior.
Notes for the editors
Gabriel Resources (TSX:GBU) announced the submission of a Request for Arbitration at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. They demand compensation and a special settlement from the Romanian state for failing to harvest 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver, expropriating hundreds of local properties and leaving behind a waste lake containing cyanide – a toxic chemical used in the process of gold extraction.
Gabriel Resources threatened to sue the Romanian government since September 2013 for up to $4 billion “for multiple breaches of investment treaties.” $4 billion is equivalent to 2% of the country’s annual GDP. Gabriel’s CEO, Jonathan Henry, the company’s sixth boss, warned that the government’s failure to approve the project would damage all of Romania.