Slopes with header ponds in Țarina. On the bottom of the valley stretches the town, 2016

Roșia Montană: The Birth of a Movement

Slopes with header ponds in Țarina. On the bottom of the valley stretches the town, 2016

Cherished by Romanians and people around the world, the village of Roșia Montană is made up of traditional buildings dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and has been home to a multi-ethnic and religiously diverse community. It has also been the site of prolonged mining activities, which have drastically transformed the landscape. Until recently, the surviving landscape was threatened with almost complete destruction by a cyanide-based gold mining project. In January 2017, Romania’s Ministry of Culture submitted an official application to make the village of Roșia Montană a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  


Roșia Montană is a small town in the Carpathian Mountains in central-western Romania. It is home to a small community of farmers and former miners, and the scene to an intense conflict generated by a large-scale open-cast gold mining project which threatens the town, its surroundings, and the very livelihoods of local people. It is also the place where one can still find the largest surviving gold mining complex dating back to Roman times, and an extensive network of later transformations and additions: galleries, extraction chambers, stairs, shafts, rails, dewatering systems, and many other features that testify to more than two millennia of gold mining. Everything is surrounded by a landscape that is transformed by this historical activity, holding at its center the historic town.

Progressively, as the new and out-of-scale project developed, opposition grew in size, origin, and objectives. From a few hundred local families, the opposition grew to tens of thousands people; from local, it grew national, and then international; from defending property rights and fighting pollution, it grew to advocate for the conservation of cultural heritage, comprising the entire cultural landscape. The local association Alburnus Maior (the Roman name of the site), established to defend the village and the surrounding landscape against the mining project, joined forces with our NGO, Association ARA (Architecture. Restoration. Archaeology) and together we created a program for the conservation of architectural heritage, fueled by voluntary participation and contributions from individuals and small grants from public organizations.

We decided to nominate the Roșia Montană Mining Landscape to the World Monuments Watch knowing that, if included, we would be able to better promote and advocate for the values of this incredible historic place, gain increased international visibility, get support in terms of management planning and designing a heritage-based development plan for the area, and not least be able to draw international partnerships to strengthen our actions. Roșia Montană Mining Landscape was successfully included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch!

Early last year the site was placed by Romanian authorities on the country’s Tentative List for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and in early 2017 the nomination dossier was submitted by our authorities to UNESCO! We are now preparing to contribute as best we can to the unfolding of this story, which was considered impossible just a few years ago, and we are still preparing to create a wider and more powerful strategy for cultural heritage and its role in the long-term development of the place. And for this, we need all the international support we can get!


Learn more about ARA.