Romania’s Supreme Court annuls Archaeological Discharge for Carnic Massif
Sweeping Landmark ruling in cultural heritage protection case
Rosia Montana, 10. December 2008 – Romania’s Supreme Court yesterday confirmed the Brasov Court of Appeal’s annulment of archaeological discharge certificate No. 4/2004 which had been issued by the Ministry of Culture and Cults in order for Rosia Montana Gold Corporation to exploit the so-called Cârnic Massif. The court’s decision is definitive, not appealable and marks the end of a long legal battle fought since 2004 by several Romanian civil society organizations to save a unique archaeological site.
Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) is 80% owned by Gabriel Resources (TSX:GBU) a Canadian mining company which plans to uproot the people of Rosia Montana to realize Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine. American Newmont Mining and Electrum Strategic Holdings LLC each own just under 20% of Gabriel Resources. Over the years, archaeologists and expert institutions from Romania and beyond such as ‘Europa Nostra’ and the ‘International Council on Monuments and Sites’ (ICOMOS) and over 1000 scholars and scholarly institutions of archaeologists, historians and other classicists have repeatedly protested over the destruction that RMGC’s proposal would cause to Rosia Montana’s unique archaeological treasures.
According to French mining archaeologists responsible for the excavations at Rosia Montana "in Carnic, antic mining networks (from Dacian times, identified as such for the first time, and from Roman times as well) remain of a striking coherence and in a remarkable state of conservation…." In Romania Carnic is protected by Law 5/2000 as cultural patrimony of national interest. In January 2004 Romania’s Ministry for Culture and the Cults (MCC) issued archaeological discharge certificate Nr. 4, which removed Carnic’s protected status. The decision was provoked by RMGC’s intention to exploit Carnic’s rich gold reserves which are central to the economic feasibility of the mine proposal. What’s more, according to Gabriel Resources, "Certificate No. 4 must be reinstated before the Company would be eligible to draw down on senior debt financing."
During the debates that led to yesterday’s ruling, Alburnus Maior proved, amongst other: a) that the Carnic Massif hosts archaeological vestiges protected as a monument of national interest and b) that the Romanian State has the obligation to employ administrative, technical and legal measures to protect this patrimony. Evidence submitted and which included numerous testimonies by archaeologists and expert institutions such as the Romanian Academy showed that the existence of archaeological vestiges is incompatible with open cast mining.
According to Andreea Szabo, Alburnus Maior’s lawyer, "Yesterday’s ruling marks a vital and encouraging precedent because it’s about access to justice and about the power of the judge to analyze the opportunity of administrative acts and to sanction administrative abuses. This decision confirms the uniqueness of Rosia Montana’s archaeological vestiges. This will oblige the authorities to intervene and ensure the protection of the spiritual and cultural heritage and to redefine its visions on cultural protection to the interest of the communities."
"It would be misleading to claim that any deficiencies identified by the court can be remedied to thus apply for a new archaeological discharge certificate. One only needs to read the ruling that lead to yesterday’s final verdict to understand the real issues at play, "says Marius Harosa, lecturer of Law at the Babeş-Bolyai University.
"2007 and 2008 really marked the way forward. With the EIA procedure halted and RMGC’s Urbanistic Plans invalidated, we were finally left free to develop our dreams: two touristic pensions are open and our local museum has been renovated. Yesterdays’ ruling now leaves us free to invite institutions and the MCC to develop efficient plans for Rosia Montana’s vestiges to be nominated a World Heritage site. We are overjoyed to see that our vision and our dreams are starting to become reality," concludes Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior.
As the news of yesterdays final ruling reached the TSX, Gabriel’s shares fell to their lowest since 1999.