Romania’s government says it will list Rosia Montana, the mountain which sits on important gold reserves and is at the center of a $4.4 billion arbitration dispute, as a UNESCO heritage site.
Culture Minister Bogdan Gheorghiu confirmed the move on Friday following a protest the previous evening where demonstrators appealed to the government to list it on the World Heritage List to stop a gold mine being built there.
“Following an analysis and consultations, we decided to resume the inclusion of the Rosia Montana area as UNESCO heritage. The request will be filed today,” Gheorghiu said on Friday.
He said the deadline for resuming procedure is 2021 He also said the minority Liberal government would develop an action plan to rehabilitate the underdeveloped area in central Romania.
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said “To my knowledge, the Roman mines at Rosia Montana are unique,” and said he was hopeful that the area would be granted the status.
Bucharest officially withdrew its support for the project in 2014. Parliament revoked a bill that would have allowed the mine to go ahead following massive street protest in 2013. The government said it was concerned about the use of cyanide in the extraction process.
Including Rosia Montana on the UNESCO World Heritage List would effectively bar any economic activity that could harm the town’s cultural heritage, which would prevent mining for gold and other precious metals.
The previous Social Democratic government in 2018 postponed listing Rosia Montana on the World Heritage list, and UNESCO then deferred its listing “due to ongoing international arbitrage.”
Gabriel Resources which owns a majority stake in the gold mine project filed a lawsuit against Romania in 2015 for $4.4 billion in alleged losses related to the company’s stalled Rosia Montana gold and silver project.
Gabriel Resources had expected a hearing on the merits of its suit filed at a World Bank tribunal to take place in December 2019.
The open pit operation would have been Europe’s largest gold mine and, according to the company, it would have injected up to $24 billion into Romania’s economy.
About 200 people protested outside the government headquarters on Thursday evening, demanding the inclusion of Rosia Montana on the UNESCO List.