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Europe’s Detroit: Bankrupt Romanian coal mining town

While thousands of Romanians flood the streets of Bucharest protesting a proposed gold mine in western Translvania, another mining drama is unfolding in the town of Aninoasa.

For the first time ever, a Romanian town has filed for bankruptcy. After six years of an economic downward spiral following the closure of a state-owned coal mine, the town’s deputy mayor Adrian Albescu is calling Anonisa the Detroit of Europe, Reuters reports.

Located in the mountain region of Jiu Valley, the 4,800 inhabitants of Aninonasa say they cannot find work apart from bar-tending and store-keeping.

The coal mine was the town’s only major employer. Operations stopped in 2006 because it was too costly and outdated to maintain.

Even after an influx of development cash from the European Union the local government couldn’t keep up with its debt and filed for insolvency in June.

Last year public lighting was cut off for months because of unpaid bills.

Albescu has launched a criminal complaint against the former mayor, alleging mismanagement of finances. 

Because of corruption allegations, the country is also barred from accessing more EU development funds.

Romania holds significant coal reserves and has been mining the black rock for 150 years. The European state has the resources to meet 70% of is energy demand, according to the European Association for Coal and Lignite.

However, in 2010 the Council of the European Union ordered that member states close all money-losing, subsidised coal mines by 2018. The Council found that subsidised coal production is inefficient and not in-line with the Union’s emphasis on renewable energy.

According to Association, job losses in Jiu Valley would total 3,500 if the region’s state-aided producers cannot become self-sufficient.

Meanwhile, a Canadian company is pushing for parliamentary approval on its Rosia Montana gold mine. Many Romanians however are protesting the mine, citing environmental concerns including cyanide contamination.