New Call To Protect Romanian Church From Gold Mine Project

The Romanian Academy on Wednesday urged the ministry of culture to include a former Roman site in its tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage to protect it from a Canadian gold mine project.

Two other organizations involved in the conservation of cultural heritage, Pro Patrimonio and the Romanian branch of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), joined the call.

The ministry has to send the list to UNESCO this month.

"The historic mining site of Rosia Montana, an invaluable part of the universal heritage, is in danger of imminent extinction if a mine proposed by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) is approved by the Romanian state", the organizations said in a press release.

"In light of these realities, the signatory organizations thus call on Romania's ministry of culture to include Rosia Montana on Romania's tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage", they added.

The Romanian Academy also called on the ministry to "initiate a program to rescue Rosia Montana's heritage", including ancient galleries dating back to the Romans.

The ministry told Agence France Presse it "does not wish to comment" on the case. In August last year, Csilla Hegedus, an advisor to the minister, told AFP the ministry's experts were "analyzing" potential inclusion on Romania's tentative list to UNESCO as "Rosia Montana obviously is an important site for Romania".

Rosia Montana's green hills are said to hold more than 300 tonnes of gold, one of the biggest deposits in Europe.

In 1999, RMGC, the daughter company of Canadian firm Gabriel Resources, obtained a concession license to exploit the local gold.

More than a decade later, the firm has still not been granted all the required environmental and archaeological permits though it insists its project will preserve the local heritage.

The project has split the local population and is strongly opposed by nature conservancy and environmental watchdogs WWF and Greenpeace, archeologists and even the Orthodox and Unitarian churches.