Cyanide and Avocet… now Romanians complain of exploitation

Hot on the heels of the news of insecurities in the supply of cyanide to Inata Gold Mine owned by London based Avocet Mining, come reports that protestors have rallied to try and prevent former Avocet CEO Jonathon Henry from mining one of the world’s largest unexploited gold reserves in rural Romania.

Gold mining companies, it seems, do not change much from place to place. Just as Avocet trumpet environmental responsibility, while their suppliers topple trucks full of cyanide briquettes into reservoirs, so Gabriel Resources, the company Jonathon Henry joined after he stepped down as Avocet CEO, talk a lot of talk about sustainable environmental behaviour, but locals aren’t convinced.

Mr Henry oversaw Avocet’s ‘withdrawal’ from their ‘misadventure‘ at Zeravshan Gold Company in Tajikistan, where… things did not quite go to plan for the mining company . Somehow though Avocet managed to emerge with a profit, while the Tajiks were left with a new Chinese owner and a pay rate 15 or 16 times less than foreign experts.

Such disparity in remuneration may also be at the heart of recent labour force ‘issues’ at Inata gold mine.

When Jonathon Henry eventually left Avocet his shoes were swiftly filled by Brett Richards, whose experience working for alleged war profiteer George Forrest’s Congolese operations mean that he is no newcomer to the vagaries of African politics. Among other things, companies owned by Forrest are claimed to have helped Angolan rebels illegally extract millions of pounds of diamonds to fund armament purchases.

But despite promises of state of the art facilities, Romanians are less than convinced by Gabriel Resources, and why would they be – according to Gabriel Resources own investigations, the area has suffered widespread environmental damage at the hands of gold miners for hundreds if not thousands of years. Rivers are polluted, ground is poisoned with various poisons, including high concentrations of cyanide, and despite local streams being too poisonous to be drinkable, most houses in the vicinity do not have indoor plumbing.

Why anyone would expect another mining company to be welcomed into such an environment is hard to imagine.

Even new facilities such as roads promised by Gabriel resources have failed to live up to expectations, crumbling beneath the wheels of motor traffic.

You can register your support for indigenous Romanian activism against cyanide based gold mining at Respect Rosia Montana, you can also follow the protest on twitter @respectRosia.

<update> This is the official site of the protest, and the official site of the petition is here.

The huge financial muscle of large scale mining operations mean that countries such as Burkina Faso or Romania where large amounts of the populations live in poverty, environmental exploitation must be fiercely resisted by outsiders as well as locals if it is to be held in check.

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Cyanide and Avocet… now Romanians complain of exploitation

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