Power to the people? Romania gold mine seems headed for referendum

Development of Europe’s would-be largest gold mine, Rosia Montana in Romania, is headed for a referendum after days of protests, potentially reversing the government’s decision last week to allow Canadian miner Gabriel Resource to dig.

Thousands of Romanians in the streets and on the internet have made their opposition to the project felt, particularly concerned about the proposed use of cyanide in the extraction process, which has pushed the President to propose a vote for next Tuesday.

In order to mine the gold and silver, Gabriel would also need to “level four mountain tops and wipe out three villages, to which campaign groups objected because it would ravage ancient Romanian sites and could possibly trigger an environmental catastrophe,” International Business Times reports.

Gabriel had been waiting for a green light for more than a dozen years before last week’s decision. The ruling Social Democratic Party pledged its support after negotiating a larger stake in the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation. Gabriel holds 80% of the shares but once construction starts, the state will own 25%.

During a march on government headquarters on Sunday, one protester told Reuters this was “only the beginning.” This individual turned out to be correct.