Corporate Accountability and Withdrawal of Canadian Support for Gabriel Resources in Romania

Filed in Corporate accountability by on May 5, 2015

Rosia Montana

Corporate Accountability and Withdrawal of Canadian Support for Gabriel Resources in Romania

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP Open Letter Destructive Mining Abroad

To: Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Official Opposition Critics for Foreign Affairs: Honourable Elizabeth May, Green Party; Honourable Paul Dewar, NDP; Jean-François Fortin, Bloc Québécois; Honourable Marc Garneau, Liberal Party
Cc: All Members of the Canadian Parliament

We are respectfully calling on you to:

  1. Introduce legislation to make Canadian corporations, particularly extractive industry corporations, accountable for proposed projects and actual operations abroad
  2. Withdraw Canadian government support for Gabriel Resources’ mining project in Romania at Rosia Montana

Canada currently places only voluntary requirements upon Canadian extractive companies operating abroad and Canadian Embassies have regularly gone to bat to protect the interests of Canadian mining companies in cases where communities don’t want them and where there have been egregious human rights and environmental abuses (1)

Our case in point is the Rosia Montana gold mine in Romania, a project that poses unacceptable environmental, social and financial risks, proposed by junior mining company Gabriel Resources that has no track record with mining, and a suspect legal and financial past.

Through cyanide leaching, the project will use 13,000 tons of cyanide per year (13 times the amount used by all European Union countries combined), leaving behind 500 million tons of cyanide tailing waste, a lake containing 215 million cubic meters of cyanide contaminated water, held together by a 200-metre dam that is supposed to last forever. The venture also involves blasting away four mountains, leaving behind four craters, and relocating thousands of people. The mine is predicted to have a catastrophic environmental impact on the local ecosystem due to the use of cyanide and its proven dangers and risks. If an accident does occur the negative environmental effects will also impact other ecosystems in the Danube catchment area, due to the use of cyanide and its proven dangers and risks. It was only 13 years ago near Baia Mare in Romania where 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water spilled into the Someş River creating one of the worst environmental catastrophes since the Chernobyl disaster (2).

Recent inquiries reveal that Gabriel Resources has capital to cover solely the expenses required for the start of the project and cannot give assurances about mediating the huge environmental risks, as stated in the company’s Annual Report (3).

The Environmental Impact Assessment of the Rosia Montana project, elaborated by the company, has been described as “poorly organized, confusing and not comprehensive” by independent hydrological consultant Robert E. Moran. (4) Many Romanian institutions including the Romanian Geological Institute and Romanian Academy have spoken against the project and its methods using enormous quantities of cyanide. Currently, there is no Canadian law regulating Canadian mining companies operations abroad (beyond the anti corruption law), so such environmental assessments and associated risks cannot be sanctioned by Canada, despite the 80% stake the Canadian company has in the project.

From a legal perspective, the beginnings of this project are very controversial. Investigative journalism reports indicate a number of illegalities associated with this corporation’s actions: from the way the company was awarded the license for exploration by transfer – not in a public auction, as it would have been legal (5), to the listing of the company on the Toronto and Vancouver stock exchanges, falsification of documentation submitted to officials to obtain project approval – modifications of geological maps (6) and omission of information attesting to the cultural value of the region (7) – and the people associated with the investment – Frank Timis, founder of Gabriel Resources, a convicted criminal (8). Moreover, prominent financiers including the World Bank International Finance Corporation have declined to fund the project due to concerns about pollution and relocation (9) and Alliantz Insurance declined insuring the project.

On August 27th 2013, the Romanian government rushed through a bill that would allow the Canadian mining company to use compulsory purchase orders to requisition the remaining land from residents who have refused to sell for 14 years (10). The Romanian people protested this draft bill and the project by taking to the streets in large numbers  in Romania, as well as in several cities around the world, such as London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Brussels, Strasbourg to name but a few, counting thousands of participants (an estimated 100,000 people since the protests commenced on 1 September).

The Canadian government is no stranger to this situation. Via its embassy representatives it has been supporting this project for many years, a fact proudly boasted by Gabriel Resources (11). Over the years, the Canadian government has actively lobbied in support of the controversial project. Former Canadian ambassador Raphael Girard, who later became Director of the Board of Gabriel Resources for two years and lobbyist for the company (12), stated in 2005 that “the Canadian government fully supports the project and in addition to this, the Canadian embassies in Brussels and Budapest are lobbying and doing all they can to help make the project happen.” (13) Ambassadors Marta Moszczenska and Philippe Beaulne also reiterated, in various occasions, their support for Gabriel Resources. (14) Canadian government’s support for the project has been unabated and has expanded ever since. Furthermore, in October 2013, during the Rosia Montana Parliamentary Commission hearing, it was revealed that Canadian diplomats were mounting pressure on Romanian officials to endorse the gold mining project.

The Canadian government  ignored the serious concerns raised by numerous experts, respected institutions (15) and the Romanian community, regarding not only the irreversible destruction of the natural habitat, weak environmental assessments, and the forced displacement of the local population, but also suspicion of fraud and misrepresentation. The Canadian government has also been ignoring the massive protests against this proposed gold mine venture that gathered, over the past few months, tens of thousands in Romania and Canada, as well as in several other countries around the world.

We are deeply disturbed by the ill-considered support of the Canadian government to this project, which has more than serious environmental, juridical and economic flaws.

We ask the Canadian government to no longer provide any lobbying or assistance to Gabriel Resources’ Rosia Montana gold mining project.

We call on you to support the development of Canadian legislation that would hold Canadian mining corporations operating abroad accountable for their actions.

 

Signatories:

  • Council of Canadians
  • Earthworks 
  • Friends of the Earth Canada
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • Greenpeace Romania 
  • Mining Watch Canada
  • Mining Watch Romania
  • Alburnus Maior Association, coordinator of the Save Rosia Montana campaign – Rosia Montana, Alba County, Romania
  • Canada Save Rosia, support group for the Save Rosia Montana campaign in Canada

Resources: 

References

(3) Gabriel Resources Annual Report reveals insufficient funds to cover the project
(13) Alburnus Maior Open Letter to Minister Pettigrew, September 14, 2005 (ATOI: a-2006-297-full.pdf page 57 and following; 198-5.pdf page 17 and more)
(14) www.green-report.ro; Ambasadorul Canadei a recomandat deputatilor sa studieze proiectul Rosia Montana http://www.green-report.ro/ambasadorul-canadei-recomandat-deputatilor-sa-studieze-proiectul-rosia-montana/

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