Rosia Montana and corporate courts

| 6th February 2019
Rosia Montana

Golden glow over beautiful Romanian valley with gold in the ground
Social movements in Rosia Montana have been defending the village against a giant gold mine project for the last twenty years.

Gabriel’s mine was irrevocably rejected by Romania’s civil society despite the company’s attempts to conduct costly cosmetic surgery to hide its ugly mine

 Stephanie Simon

Canadian company Gabriel Resources wanted to created Europe’s largest open pit gold mine and use cyanide to extract the gold.

Two beautiful valleys and some 2,000 inhabitants living in or next to an almost 2000-year old Roman settlement were to be sacrificed because an $8 billion profit was in sight. Today, the village of Rosia Montana is 1888 years old. A mass movement with more than 100, 000 active supporters fought back.

The conflict came to a head in 2013 when parliament had to decide on a new law that would allow the mine. The protests in the streets of Romania were so massive that Parliament could do little else than block the mine.

Grassroots activism

Romanians managed to keep mayhem for the Rosia Montana region at bay. They’ve done this with grassroots activism at national and international level and mass direct participation.

While doing this they were able to transform the area from a doomed mono-industrial isolated space into a dynamic, lively and attractive region of farming, eco-tourism and socio-political debates about alternative futures.

Stephanie Simon, legal adviser of the Alburnus Maior NGO that was part of the struggle against the line said: “Gabriel’s mine was irrevocably rejected by Romania’s civil society despite the company’s attempts to conduct costly cosmetic surgery to hide its ugly mine together with its disastrous effects to the environment, cultural heritage and human health.”

But Gabriel Resources is like a scorpion.  It stung with a tale full of poison in 2015. Ever since, Romania is facing a whopping 4,4 billion claim, 2 percent of its GDP.

Gabriel Resources used an investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism to claim billions from Romanian people because of a loss in expected profits. This ISDS mechanism works with secretive corporate courts that stand above national judicial systems.

The case of Rosia Montana is just one example why the European Environmental Bureau decided to join a massive pan-European campaign against these ISDS systems.

Corporations basically have their own global private court system – called ISDS – which they use to bully governments. The bullying all too often happens to push an environmentally destructive project through – with Vattenfall suing Germany for closing nuclear power stations as another example.

The campaign coalition – which unites almost the same groups that collected 3,3 million signatures to kill TTIP in the Stop TTIP campaign – argues that we need to get rid of ISDS mechanisms and instead need a tough global system that can punish multinationals for their crimes.

In fact, such a mechanism is being debated at UN level on the initiative of countries that are hurt by multinational mining companies, like Ecuador.

This binding UN treaty on business and human rights is the second big ask of the campaign. Since the “Rights for People, Rules for Corporations – Stop ISDS” campaign launch on 22 January, the coalition gathered already 300.000 signatures.

rosia montana ISDS

This Author 

Nick Meynen is policy officer for Environmental and Economic Justice at the European Environmental Bureau. He authored several books on the environment and he comments on global environmental and economic issues on Facebook and Twitter. For more details, visit the Atlas of Environmental Justice.

More information about the Rosia Montana case can be found in the Atlas of Environmental Justice.


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