In our line of work it can be daunting to face the power of multinational mining companies.
It would be easy to get discouraged, were it not for the power of communities when they come together. I think of communities in countries around the world — from India to Romania — who resisted a mining proposal, and whose resistance ultimately brought local governments to side with them too.
But lately, companies are increasingly refusing to take “no” for an answer – even when that decision is made through democratic processes. Rather than accept unfavorable government decisions, such as a permit denial, some companies are even suing countries under investment agreements that allow them to “seek international arbitration” in publicly inaccessible World Bank tribunals.
Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources, which has the backing of US giant Newmont, is the latest mining company to resort to this tactic. Gabriel is threatening to sue the Romanian government if it does not get approval for its proposed Rosia Montana open-pit gold mine.
The Romanian Parliament rejected the proposal to build one of Europe's largest open-pit gold mines in 2013, after months of protests in Bucharest and around the world.
If it acts on its threat, Gabriel Resources would not be the only mining company to sue a sovereign government for having the temerity to say “no” to a mining proposal. Oceana Gold has embroiled El Salvador for rejecting its proposed gold mine.
Mining companies should not be circumventing democracy.
We hope that Gabriel Resources' threat of arbitration remains that — a threat. Tens of thousands of Romanians have rallied against this open pit mine, which would crush four mountains, destroy three villages and contaminate water supplies. The Romanian Parliament was echoing the will of its people when it rejected the Rosia Montana mine proposal. This rejection is all the more important given Romania’s checkered ability to provide government oversight of mines.
We call on Gabriel Resources’ investors – and in particular, Newmont, which has a 13 percent ownership of Gabriel Resources — to use their influence to end Gabriel’s protracted presence in Romania.