Romania parliament rejects new mining framework

Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:38am EST
 
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* Gabriel Resources spent 14 years waiting for approval

* Critics say mine development could damage environment

* Project says aims to create jobs in poor area

BUCHAREST, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Romania's lower house of parliament rejected revisions to general mining legislation on Tuesday that could have enabled Canada's Gabriel Resources to proceed with plans to build Europe's largest open cast gold mine.

Gabriel has been waiting for more than 14 years for approval to use cyanide to mine about 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver in the small Carpathian town of Rosia Montana. The state holds a minority stake in the mine.

Hundreds of protesters gathered before the vote outside parliament as well as in the northwestern city of Cluj, chanting "Save Rosia Montana" and asking lawmakers to vote against the mining changes.

Earlier this year, the government of leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta approved a law designed specifically for the project, which triggered countrywide protests and led parliament to struck down the bill.

The assembly then revised legislation for the mining sector, including provisions that would have applied to the gold mine. Gabriel said it hoped parliament would pass them quickly, allowing it to begin work next year.

But the changes were not approved on Tuesday in the lower house, which had the final say, as the required quorum was not met.

The government could choose to approve a new bill for the gold mine, or parliament could draft new legislation at a later date, but for now the proposed gold mine is on hold.

Gabriel Resources did not immediately comment. It has estimated Romania would get $5.2 billion in taxes, royalties, services and jobs, or roughly three quarters of overall benefits from the project, an estimate challenged by protesters and NGOs who oppose the project.