Environmental Activists Derail Euro Sun Mining’s Plans for EU’s Largest Open-pit Gold and Copper Mine Project in Romania

A Romanian-based campaign group, Mining Watch Romania, has announced the environmental safeguarding of 23,009 sq. m of land within the footprint of Euro Sun Mining’s (ESM) proposed Rovina Valley site, in western Romania – a move that will almost certainly derail Euro Sun plans to commence works at the site in 2022.

The lands, which are now owned in part by Declic, a campaign NGO and member of Mining Watch Romania, fall across three communes (Bucuresci, Criscior, and Buces) and are strategically located within Euro Sun Mining’s proposed development area. The site’s viability and future – as the EU’s largest proposed copper and gold mining project – depended on the company’s ability to secure all property rights within the site footprint.

Euro Sun Mining had hoped to establish Romania’s first open-pit copper and gold mine, via a Romanian-based subsidiary, Samax Romania. This would have been the largest such project in the EU.

However, its proposals have met with fierce opposition at local, national, and international level.

Residents from Bucuresci, Criscior, and Buces, in Hunedoara County, which fall within the footprint of the proposed mine, have collectively opposed Euro Sun Mining’s proposals via the ‘Dezvoltam Durabil Zona Muntilor Metaliferi’ (‘Association for Sustainable Development of the Metaliferi Mountains’) initiative, and benefited from the support of numerous activists from the Save Rosia Montana campaign – a group that campaigned for a ban to the use cyanide in mining and that fought against the EU’s proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – via analysis, expertise and campaign support. Their opposition centres, largely, on the upstream design of Euro Sun’s proposed waste facility at Rovina, as well as environmental impacts, to items such as ground water in the area.

This is not the first time that proposed mining explorations in Romania have experienced coordinated opposition. In 2013, the Rosia Montana mining project, owned by Gabriel Resources, triggered the largest ever social and environmental movement seen in Romania, following state-led efforts to expedite the company’s exploration approvals. Gabriel Resources subsequently sued Romania at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes following the rejection of its plans. More recently, the Certej mining project, owned by Eldorado Gold – one of the biggest gold producers in the world – faced opposition from NGOs, and a network of local groups, to its proposed explorations. This opposition ultimately succeeded in annulling the company’s urban plan in 2019, and thus halted the development of the mine.

Euro Sun Mining has faced its own, company-wide, setbacks in recent years. In 2020-2021, the company reported losses totalling $5.5million, and, prior to this, suffered reputational damage in Romania, following revelations that senior figures within the company had employed the services of Mossak Fonesca, the offshore law firm involved in the global Panama Papers investigation. In August, ESM had also expressed hope of securing a listing on the London Stock Exchange by the end of 2021 – a move yet to be realized.

The Rovina Valley development site, which is largely covered by forest and situated near the Vulcan Mountain nature reserve, was last mined over thirty years ago. However, in May 2015, Euro Sun Mining – then operating under as Carpathian Gold – announced that it had received an exploration license for the site. This permit, which covers a site range of 27,678 km2, was granted by the country’s National Agency for Mineral Resources.

Given today’s developments, and Romania’s strict property ownership laws, it is unclear how Euro Sun can proceed with its proposed project in the Rovina Valley in the absence of landowner approval.

“Investors should think twice before putting their money into a project that is not only flawed, in its design, but also opposed by locals within the Rovina Valley,” Tudor Bradatan, executive director of Declic, commented on Euro Sun’s proposals and opposition-led efforts to protect the Rovina site from exploration.

“We will use all legal means available to safeguard and defend the interests of local citizens,” Roxana Pencea, Mining Watch Romania, said.

“I’ve asked Euro Sun several times what they intend to do if people refuse to sell their land to make way for this mine – and I’m yet to receive a response. To me, this suggests there is no plan B for this project and that they are simply hoping to ride roughshod over the legitimate concerns and opposition of local residents,” Adriana Maucher, local landowner and opponent of the proposed mine, mentioned.

“Over the past five years, young people have moved to this part of the country and given fresh life to the Buces and Bucuresci communes. My family, and others, have invested in the area – into its agriculture and its tourism – and we want to see it thrive in a sustainable way; not through mining,” Mihaela Catana, Dezvoltam Durabil Zona Muntilor Metaliferi, noted.

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