Romania wants former mining city of Rosia Montana to be pulled from UNESCO list

Move could mean good news for Gabriel Resources' long-stalled namesake gold project.

Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose plans to ask UNESCO to revoke an application to gain status of World Heritage site for the former mining town of Rosia Montana, as the potential nomination means important gold reserves can no longer be exploited.

The application, submitted to UNESCO by the former government, was the last nail in the coffin for Canadian Gabriel Resources’ (TSX:GBU) namesake project, which faced relentless local opposition and several attempts to block the proposed mine by the government.

Canada's Gabriel Resources is seeking $4.4 billion in damages from Romania for losses related to its long-stalled project in Rosia Montana.

In 2014, parliament yielded to pressure from environmentalists, worried about the potential use of cyanide to mine about 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver, and halted the project.

By then, the Toronto-based miner filed had spent 15 years and about and $700 million trying to build its $2bn Rosia Montana mine, so it filed a request for international arbitration. The idea was to seek compensation from Bucharest for the many delays to the company’s flagship project.

Currently, Gabriel is requesting Romania to pay $4.4 billion in damages for losses related to its long-stalled project.

But Tudose believes the company won’t get what it wants because it “never actually invested in mining and the money was spent on development projects, including building a church and saving the patrimony in the area,” local News.ro reports (in Romanian).

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.

The damage claim sought by Gabriel Resources represents more than 2% of the nation’s forecast gross domestic product of just under $200 billion this year.

Romania has until early 2019 to respond to the suit. The court will hear arguments in September next year.

For now, a protest is being organized on Facebook against the idea of withdrawing Rosia Montana from the UNESCO list. The march is planned for this Friday, in Bucharest.