Mining for the Community at Rosia Montana (III)

Written by N. Ishwaran and J. Zammit-Lucia

This is a third article in 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.

In Rosia Montana cultural and heritage preservation and environmental improvements are not in conflict with sustainable economic development driven in large part by an activity that has a history of more than 2000 years at the site. Economic benefits from mining of gold and silver at Rosia Montana can support and improve the other two pillars of sustainable development, namely social cohesion and quality of life as well as environmental and heritage conservation.

The task of heritage preservation needs to be considered in the context of the development of the local, regional and national communities in line with the sustainable development goals as laid out in the 2012 Rio+20 Summit. Those that argue for putting a stop to mining activities argue that a local economy can be built on tourism based on the cultural and natural heritage around Rosia Montana. We find this argument unconvincing and, if we were part of the local community, would not be prepared to gamble our future on such assertions.

Rosia Montana is a remote mining town. Road access and international connections are limited. There is little or no infrastructure to accommodate a tourism economy. Neither are there the additional attractions and entertainments that even committed heritage tourists seek in order to have a rounded holiday experience. When viewed in the context of the fierce global competition for tourists from other major historical and natural sites, what Rosia Montana has to offer is unlikely to be competitive in the short-to-medium term. Even the major tourism destinations such as the Galapagos, Great Barrier Reef, Taj Mahal and the great European sites only achieve their tourism success as part of global, national and regional networks that work in concert. No such network yet exists to support Rosia Montana.

While we believe that tourism can become a part of the local economy, this is a long-term aspiration that requires several years of investment both in restoration and infrastructure as well as in starting to build a wider tourism economy both regionally and nationally. In the short term there is a need for more realistic economic development options to lift the region out of its economic dormancy.

The proposed Rosia Montana gold and silver mining project provides an opportunity to have a living mine that simultaneously preserves heritage and generates income and wealth for local, regional and national sustainable development. Income from mining must be invested to develop infrastructure and other necessary conditions for the sustainable development of Rosia Montana and its surrounding region. The long-term goal is to use the economic benefits of mining to lay social and environmental foundations that will ensure a lively and prosperous region long after the mining activities have been halted. In addition, this will preserve the cultural importance of mining activity for the local community.

In this regard, we do not perceive heritage preservation and active mining to be in conflict. Rather they are both essential pillars to the successful combination of heritage and cultural preservation with community wellbeing and sustainable development of the wider economy.