Analysis: Social media empowers anti-mining activists

Tue Jan 7, 2014 10:46am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Allison Martell and Ioana Patran

TORONTO/BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Facebook and other social networks are making it easier for anti-mining activists to derail projects, helping them get their message out and organize more quickly against an industry that is already struggling with high costs and volatile prices.

From Romania to Peru to Canada, protest movements have disrupted projects in recent years, in part because activists have harnessed the power of social media and mobile technology, parties on both sides of the disputes say.

Civil unrest can spell disaster for mining projects at any stage, even after billions have been invested. That is not new. What has changed is activists' ability to mobilize, a trend that echoes political upheavals that social media have helped fuel across the Middle East and North Africa.

The saga of Rosia Montana, the Romanian region where Canada's Gabriel Resources Ltd wants to build Europe's biggest open-pit gold mine, offers a clear illustration of how social media has shifted the balance of power.

Gabriel's push to get the project approved suffered a series of setbacks in the autumn after activists used Facebook to organize demonstrations across the country.

"Our experience in Romania is not unique, but certainly the take-away is that the best project in the world can be portrayed as the worst unless the host government stands up to the vocal minority," Chief Executive Jonathan Henry said of the impact of the Facebook campaigns against Rosia Montana.

The project has been in the works for nearly 15 years, and until Romania's government backed it in late August, years had passed without major protests. But activists mobilized quickly on Facebook after the government showed support for the mine, and within days thousands hit the streets.

In November a parliamentary commission rejected a draft bill that would have allowed the project to proceed. A second attempt to approve the project as part of a new mining law failed in December.   Continued...

A man is silhouetted as he uses a mini tablet computer while standing in front of a video screen with the Facebook and Twitter logos, in this picture illustration taken in Sarajevo October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic