Roşia Montană – ‘raising the bar’ on international best practice
Mr. Stephan Theben, an external independent auditor, writes about best practice and ‘raising the bar’.
Is it realistic for a new mining project in a country new to the European Union to go beyond international and EU standards on environmental safety and protection?
In the case of the proposed gold mine at Roşia Montană the answer is: yes. In this situation, Romania has the opportunity to set a new global benchmark, earning the country’s mining sector a reputation for industrial safety, high quality project design, international environmental standards, and modern mining practices.
I am a German mining engineer by training. My professional life has been guided by a firm belief that the mining industry has a duty to apply the best practices that technology and funding allow. It is the right thing to do, and quality projects deliver consistently better performance. High mining environmental standards are now thankfully enshrined in EU legislation.
Ten years ago I led the technical working group that developed the European Commission’s Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for the management of tailings and waste rock in mining activities. This work remains the reference point for mining activities in Europe, and beyond. It sets out an approach whereby highest standards are applied, using the best techniques engineers and designers know of.
I was also involved in the development of the European Union’s Mine Waste Directive. This important directive sets out how mine waste management is to be carried out in all EU countries, providing measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce any adverse effects on the environment.
Whilst at the European Commission I also represented the Commission as a Steering Committee Member for the Development of the International Cyanide Management Code, now an internationally recognised institution based in Washington DC.
My assessment of the proposed Roşia Montană Project concludes as follows:
- The design standards for environmental safety and protection planned for the Rosia Montana Project are in line with international best practice and, in many aspects, would set a new standard for best available techniques;
- Based on the information provided and reviewed to date the Roşia Montană Project would fully comply with EU Mining Directives, including the ‘Best Available Technique’ requirements; and
- The use of cyanide (a standard gold extraction method used worldwide to recover about 90% of gold currently mined) will be managed according to the ‘Best Available Techniques’ and the International Cyanide Management Code – involving a closed system, lower than standard levels of cyanide in the tailings management facility, and best practice in liner and dam design.
It is understandable that people’s concerns are dominated by memories of the Baia Mare incident which killed many fish in the Danube river system. But the world has changed, lessons have been learned and, thanks to EU legislation, global mining industry initiatives and the thorough review process by Romanian authorities, gold mining projects in general, and the Roşia Montană Project in particular, now perform at a high level of environmental protection.
The Roşia Montană Project will allow Romania to set the bar high in the global mining industry. Romania is fortunate to have the opportunity to make use of this natural resource. By allowing the development of this Project, Romania has the potential to attract international investors to further help develop its mining industry.
Mr. Stephan Theben
Mr. Theben is an external independent auditor specialising in European Union mining legislation, compliance, and international best practice for cyanide management.
Mr. Theben is an Associate Consultant at AMEC, a global engineering and consulting firm. He consults primarily to the gold industry on five continents. His work includes prefeasibility and feasibility studies, construction, baseline studies and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs).
At the present time, amongst other projects, Mr. Theben leads the Environmental and SociaI Impact Assessment for one of the largest gold mining projects in Canada.
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