The Rosia Montana Project: Mining with a Positive Impact (IV)

Written by N. Ishwaran and J. Zammit-Lucia

This article concludes 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 re-initiation of mining activity in Rosia Montana is essential to the successful preservation of the local heritage and to developing the ability to make that local heritage meaningful in both cultural and economic terms. We have not seen any realistic alternatives that can offer the investment necessary to combine heritage preservation with local community development and the building of a sustainable long-term future for the region. It would be a hollow achievement to restore Roman galleries in a moribund local community with no clear prospects of drawing substantial numbers of visitors. That is not what heritage preservation should be about.

Mining Impact

Like many development activities, mining can cause significant damage to the local environment and heritage. In Rosia Montana what is the heritage impact of such activity? It is our understanding that the RMGC plans will not damage any of the significant heritage sites but rather there is a commitment to continue the excavation and restoration process. Some components of the cultural heritage will, however, be affected by natural causes or by general development of the societies. While this is regrettable, the parts that will suffer are minor and we hope that such damage will be offset by heritage restoration activities in other parts of Rosia Montana and its surrounding region.

While it is not ideal to affect or cause damage to any heritage site, a total “hands-off” approach will do little to revive the local economy from its long and on-going hibernation. We believe that a decision to stop or delay the re-initiation of mining activities in order to preserve minor components of heritage will, overall, have a more damaging effect on the longer-term prospects for broader cultural and heritage preservation in the area and for the wider region. Hence, we recommend an approach that builds on dialogue and partnership for managing a living mining landscape that builds prosperity while preserving the essence of mining heritage and culture in Rosia Montana.

Rosia Montana still suffers from the legacy of mining operations from a previous era. The result is abandoned open cast mining landscapes and significant pollution in the local rivers. Besides the health risks they pose, these are further barriers to the successful development of the local economy, particularly one based on tourism. Re-starting the mining operation, using modern and internationally accepted techniques, is the only viable option to undertake the significant cleanup operation that is necessary.

Further, the mining operation will bring much needed broader economic benefits to Romania as a whole.

The rapid resumption of mining activities in Rosia Montana is a necessary condition for cultural and heritage preservation and an economically vibrant region thereby ensuring that preservation is meaningful both to the local community and to the wider world. We believe that stopping or delaying the resumption of mining activity in Rosia Montana would have significant negative consequences on local and regional sustainable development and on heritage preservation as well.