Unemployment at this time of year is never a welcome gift, but GABRIEL RESOURCES of Toronto is now laying off workers and letting staff go from its Rosia Montana project in Romania. The project is owned 80% by Gabriel (through a subsidiary) and 19% by the Romanian government. Nonetheless, the government suspended its environmental impact review in September.
Gabriel has poured over US$300 million into the Rosia Montana development. The company successfully identified the opportunity to build a gold mine and clean up some of the environmental mess left by historic mining. For its money and hard work, the company also became a magnet for opposition from environmental organizations and NGOs with self-interests and very deep pockets.
"Most disappointing of all," says Gabriel Resources CEO Alan Hill, "is that we have reached the point where we can no longer employ people when we do not have work for them to do. As a result, we must let a lot of our staff go, as most of our activities have been stopped with the suspension of the EIA review process. Our effort and resources will be focused on getting the EIA back on track and getting this project permitted.
"Unfortunately, the company also has no choice but to suspend its land acquisition program," he continued. To date, 73% of the properties within the project footprint have been bought on a 'willing buyer, willing seller' basis, in compliance with World Bank resettlement guidelines. The program will be suspended in February 2008, with the exact date decided in consultation with affected stakeholders.
"There is no point in continuing with engineering, procurement of long-lead-time equipment, and full staffing given that most of the permitting activities have been stopped," Hill said.
The decision to cease development work in no way lessens Gabriel's commitment to the community. The company will continue to operate its educational and youth partnership programs, which have already assisted about 300 children and 40 teachers in the Rosia village and surrounding area. The Christmas children's gift-giving program will also continue in Rosia Montana and nearby villages.
The Good Neighbour program, which provides food, basic services and emergency help to the elderly and disadvantaged, will also continue. Said Hill: "Our Good Neighbour program ensures that all residents of Rosia Montana have adequate food and wood for heating their homes, that the elderly and isolated have transportation to doctors when needed, and have help with basic functions - like shovelling snow in the winter and bringing in wood to keep the fire fed."
Much has been written about the development of the Rosia Montana gold mine, and I have expressed my opinion. I am firmly on Gabriel's side, even if it took me a while to get there. I am proud that it is a Canadian company so deeply involved in supporting a community in eastern Europe.
"Bah, humbug!" to the self-interested groups who have done nothing for the local communities except stop an economic engine that could have put them on track to the 21st Century.