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29 September 2013

Hundreds of Romanians protested today in Trafalgar Square against a draft bill passed by their government that will allow a Canadian firm, Gabriel Resources, to create Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine in the village of Rosia Montana.

The project is set to extract 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver over a 16-year period. It will destroy four mountain tops, force the relocation of hundreds of families, and leave behind a lake containing 215 million cubic metres of water contaminated with poisonous cyanide.

It was the sixth London-based protest following the fifth on Friday when Romanians took to the streets of London on pushbikes brandishing banners and chanting “together we save Rosia Montana”, in a “non-negotiable” movement against further development of the mining project.

Europe’s worst environmental disaster since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 was in 2000, in northern Romanian city Baia Mare – a mining project that also used cyanide. The cyanide usage at the Baia Mare mine was 130 times less than the planned amount at Rosia Montana.

Nicolae Ratiu, Treasurer of the Romanian Cultural Institute London, who attended one of the London protests, said: “It’s the first time that the Romanian civil society since the revolution [against communism in 1989] have actually focussed around a particular issue saying ‘this is a violation of our civil rights – and we need to stand up and make a difference’.”

Today’s protests were part of a global movement that has seen hundreds of thousands of Romanians demonstrating throughout September, in around seventy-five cities worldwide – with up to 30,000 in Romania’s capital, Bucharest.