Mining and Heritage at Rosia Montana: A Constructive Approach (I)

Written by N. Ishwaran and J. Zammit-Lucia

This article opens a series of four pieces written by N. Ishwaran (Beijing) and J. Zammit-Lucia (Amsterdam). Mr. Natarajan Ishwaran is a Visiting Professor, International Centre for Space Technology Applications for Natural and Cultural Heritage, Beijing, China. During a 25-year (1987-2012) career in UNESCO he served as Chief, Natural Heritage Section, World Heritage Centre (1996-2004) and Secretary of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program and the Director of Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences (2004-2012), respectively. Dr. Joseph Zammit-Lucia is the President of Web of Life Foundation and also Fellow, Royal Society of Arts; Member, Dean’s Leadership Board, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida International University; Former Special Adviser to the Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The circumstances surrounding the situation in Rosia Montana offer Romania the opportunity to be at the forefront of demonstrating a new and innovative partnership between mining and heritage preservation, environmental improvement and sustainable development.

The proposed gold and silver mine at Rosia Montana would revive an activity that is known to have been operational since the beginning of the 2nd Century AD, under Roman administration, and continued throughout the medieval and modern periods until as recently as 2006.

What is the most efficient way forward in preserving and protecting this heritage? There seems to be a stark division among national and international experts forming two very opposing views:

Or,

In our view, the most productive task at hand is not to frame options for the future in exclusive terms; heritage or mining. Rather, we should seek sensible tradeoffs that benefit heritage, community and economy. We argue that, in Rosia Montana, a constructive way forward is possible and must be the choice that will meet the cultural and heritage conservation goals while respecting the rights and expectations of local communities, securing their quality of life and achieving broader benefits to the Romanian environment, society and economy.

We have seen in countless instances worldwide that actions that frame issues as a conflict between opposing and irreconcilable views and adopt belligerent tactics to support one or other perspective lead to outcomes that are unproductive for all. In the end, it is local communities that usually pay the price of such conflict – conflict that is usually driven by the activities and often narrow interests of outsiders on both sides of the argument.

We believe that the conflict between cultural/heritage preservation and mining activities in Rosia Montana is a false conflict. We see no merit in encouraging further the language of conflict as it will cause significant harm to all parties, to the broader prospects of heritage conservation and, particularly, to the local and regional communities.