Romania’s Roșia Montană Is One Step Closer To Being Protected

In early January 2017, Romania’s Ministry of Culture submitted an official application to make the village of Roșia Montană a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cherished by Romanians and people around the world, the village of Roșia Montană in the Apuseni Mountains 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. Until recently, the surviving landscape was threatened with almost complete destruction by a cyanide-based gold mining project.

World Monuments Fund congratulates the exhaustive efforts of local advocates who have been waging a campaign to save Roșia Montană for over fifteen years. In the fall of 2013, tens of thousands of people throughout Romania repeatedly took to the streets to protest the government’s decision to modify a law that would fast-track the mining project. A temporary reprieve was granted when both houses of the Romanian parliament rejected the draft law, a direct outcome of the protests. The mining company, Gabriel Resources, is now seeking compensation from the Romanian government through the World Bank’s international arbitration tribunal.

Roșia Montană still faces many challenges. A large number of properties purchased by the Roșia Montană Gold Corporation now lie vacant and deteriorating, while mining-friendly land use regulations must change to allow for the development of more sustainable forms of economic activity, including organic agriculture, eco-tourism, and cultural tourism—which are currently prohibited. Inclusion on the 2016 World Monuments Watch calls for a coordinated effort and new investment to promote sustainable development at Roșia Montană, and for continuing the process of valorizing its rich heritage. Its nomination for World Heritage designation is an important step towards the site’s protection.

Image above: Traces of open-cast mining in Mt. Cetate, 2017. Photo by Cătălin Chiriloi.