All posts by David

I hold American and English passports. You can find me in the wilds of America or in Roșia Montană serving as Vice President of the Roșia Montană Cultural Foundation.
Rosia Montana: Revolution

The Art of Revolution: Part I

Revolution is a provocative word.

Like a flag carried over the battlefield, it raises images of war and bloodshed, of Lady Liberty leading the common people against the brutal chains of tyranny. Yet, all too often, revolution does not mean an end to tyranny; only a change in tyrants.

There exists another kind of revolution, one that does not create an opportunity for opportunists. It’s a revolution of the spirit and it takes place within ourselves. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”

Derived from the Latin verb revolvere, the word revolution has been evolving for centuries. Though the astronomer Copernicus created a revolution of thought when he published On the Revolutions (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium) to describe the movement of planets in our heliocentric solar system, it was much later that astrologers began using revolution to mean a significant “turning” of events, an upheaval of change, especially in regards to the affairs of the king. James II of England must have realized this firsthand during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when he was overthrown by English parliamentarians in favor of William and Mary.

In modern times, revolution has offered the promise of something radically new and, presumably, better. This was the case in December 1989, when Romanians took to the streets in Timosoara to voice their anger and frustration over years of oppressive rule by Nicolae Ceaușescu. Regarded as one of the most brutal rulers in Communist Europe, Ceaușescu was ultimately overthrown and executed.

…Romanians were crazed with happiness. People who never met each other before hugged each other in the streets – convinced that tomorrow things would look different. Then came the many disappointments.
~ Octavian Paler

What, then, of Romania and the Romanian people? Did their revolution bring something “radically new” to Romania; an end to tyranny and the birth of “government by the people”?

In a way, yes. Communist directives fell, replaced by democratic institutions and ideals. Gone was the Romanian police state. A new era of self-government was being ushered in; or so it seemed.

To many, it was only the face of tyranny that had changed. They saw the same players from Ceaușescu’s regime holding official government positions, including President Ion Iliescu. This came to a head in June 1990 when President Iliescu transported over 10,000 miners to Bucharest to restore order against protesting university students and intellectuals. Upset over the hurried election of President Iliescu, the protestors condemned the new government’s failure to uphold the Proclamation of Timisoara which decreed that no former Communist Party members could hold office. Dozens died and the world watched in shocked disbelief as miners used wooden clubs, rubber hoses and iron bars on protesters and innocent civilians.

Did the protesters have cause for concern? Of all the Eastern Bloc countries that witnessed the fall of communism within their borders, only Bulgaria and Romania saw members of the old regime back in power. The purpose of the Proclamation of Timisoara was to give the country a clean foundation upon which to build a new government, free from politicians who had supported a corrupt communist political system. How could ex-party officials be trusted to form a democratic government when they, themselves, had taken part in the systematic, often brutal, oppression of the Romanian people?

Though violent events like those in 1990 have been rare, a similar mistrust in government is fueling the current crisis at Rosia Montana. A UNESCO-worthy heritage site, Rosia Montana galvanized the opposition into action when Frank Timis, a Romanian-born Australian immigrant and founder of Gabriel Resources, set his sights on the area as the perfect location for Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine. With 2000 years of natural and cultural heritage threatened, angry citizens of Rosia Montana banded together to form opposition groups.

As resistance grew, so did the resolve of the mining company – and allegations of misconduct. Desperate to show its shareholders progress, the mining company was accused of resorting to tactics all-too-familiar to a nation demoralized under 40 years of communist rule; threats, buy-offs, bribes, misinformation and pseudo-science. These tactics could only be possible under a government unable, or unwilling, to enforce democratic law. Indeed, it was becoming clear the company had accomplices at every level of government.

From the beginning, Gabriel Resources, and its Romanian subsidiary, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, has been embroiled in controversy. In 1997, in an agreement with the Romanian government that has many more questions than answers, Frank Timis, at the time a small business owner and trained auto mechanic, somehow was able to secure the lease of not only Romania’s but Europe’s largest goldfields. Despite repeated cries to the contrary, the contract between Gabriel Resources and the Romanian government has remained sealed, hidden away from public review.

In 2000, Virgil Nicolae Narita was elected Rosia Montana’s mayor in part by speaking out against the proposed project and its relocation of the village. Not long after taking office, however, he helped pass a local resolution designating the area a mono-industrial mining zone – a move that effectively stopped any other investments from entering into the impoverished local economy.

Some of the villagers accuse him of betrayal–running for office on a ticket opposing the relocation, while now pursuing a more diplomatic line. ~ LA Times

Mr. Narita’s reasons for a turnabout took on more clarity after he was forced from office in 2006 when it was discovered that he and his family were making huge profits from mining company projects that benefited his own construction company; a clear conflict of interest.

Similarly, opponents of the mining project often find closed doors to getting  answers. Dr. Horia Ciugudean, one of Romania’s most renown archaeologists and a staunch opponent to the mining project, has been repeatedly denied the necessary permits to properly survey the proposed mining land by Alba County officials. Not surprisingly, Alba County is a beneficiary of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, and has repeatedly denied Dr. Ciugudean the necessary archeological permits even though only 1% of the project’s land has been surveyed according to accepted scientific standards

For a country still recovering from a recent history of oppression and government corruption, mistrust of politicians and government runs deep. What is happening to Rosia Montana only adds to this mistrust. Its story has been simmering in the minds of Romanians, waiting for a galvanizing moment that would drive the people to decisive, cohesive action.

That moment came in September 2013.

Next Week: The Art of Revolution: Part II

Rosia Montana

What’s next for Rosia Montana?

David

For all of us against RMGC’s gold mining project in Rosia Montana, there has been a lot of good news, recently: powerful protests erupted in streets throughout Romania, an unjust law was rejected by the parliamentary commission, a British study commissioned by Romania’s ministry of culture and funded by Pro Patrimonio deemed Rosia Montana unique in the world and worthy of UNESCO protection. So what do we do with this shifting of the balance from RMGC to the opposition?

We keep the pressure on! Now, more than ever, the opposition should continue the good fight and seek a “knockout punch.” Now is the time to form meaningful partnerships with powerful and influential people in government, industry and the academic world though they may have supported the mining project. When RMGC falls, a vacuum will be left and the opposition should seek, now, to sow seeds of partnership so that the opposition has a relevant voice in the development of Rosia Montana as a model of sustainability. By acting now, we will have a voice in Rosia Montana’s future.

In North America and Europe, numerous examples abound of how unrestrained development can destroy a community’s quality of life. Imagine a developer coming to Rosia Montana intent on making a profit from the tourists and building a line of ugly, commercial hotels or a shopping center atop the ridge overlooking Rosia Valley! Make no mistake; RMGC is just the first obstacle to building a sustainable community – another obstacle will come from developers seeking monetary gain from the tourists at the expense of the historical and aesthetic significance of the area.

What can we do? Start by making friends with your enemies. Local and regional politicians, like the mayor and county officials, will not always support the gold company. Once RMGC’s boat begins to sink, the rats will jump ship. However, instead of treating them as rats, treat them, instead, as misbehaving children. Welcome them with open arms and begin to build relationships with them in order to make Rosia Montana a model community. This does not mean to ignore their past actions; it only means to bring them over to the opposition’s side with a watchful eye. Let us be forgiving, but not stupid.

Now’s the time to act. RMGC will continue to attempt any means at securing the government’s approval for the project, both legitimate and underhanded. They have done it before, and with billions at stake for their stockholders, we can expect more of the same. However, by acting now, with skill and integrity, their chances of success diminish. Let’s build friendships in the halls of Parliament and in the streets of Romania and together, build a better Rosia Montana, not only for Romanians, but for all the world.

Rosia Montana: Sorin Jurca and Group

The Importance of Working Together

Teamwork!

Rosia Montana

United we stand; divided we fall. This simple phrase points to a truth in any struggle; that unless the individuals and groups seeking to achieve a specific goal learn to work together for the common good of that goal, the struggle is doomed to fail.

The mining company knows this truth well and has sought, through bribes, intimidation and financial incentives, to build a company machine capable of creating obstacles for those who oppose them and for pushing through illegal legislation in order to realize their plans to open the largest open-pit gold mine in Europe. Yet, their unity is built upon fear and desire and will last only as long as the fear and desire is fed – an expensive proposition.

The opposition, on the other hand, can find its unity under the banner of higher principles like a human being’s right to have equal access to nature and nature’s resources, to earn an income through sustainable opportunities and to live free without the interference of government or corporations. When we recognize all the different ways we, as members of the opposition, oppose the company’s mining project, we realize that there are many valid reasons  to want an end to open-pit mining in Rosia Montana but that we are all focused on the one goal – to save Rosia Montana!

Since arriving in Rosia Montana seven months ago, I have noticed that we do not always work together; that old wounds and new egos sometimes clash… for the good of the company. And that is the end result; anything that divides us and prevents us from working together or at least supporting each other’s efforts is an advantage for the mining company. In fact, one of the company’s main strategies has been to divide and destroy. This is a technique of mining company’s all over the world; to divide not only the community but the opposition, as well. In this way, the company directs the attention to something that is irrelevant as a means of diverting attention away from the real issues. In law, this technique is called a “red herring.”

So let’s don’t supply the company with a way to detract and mislead the public away from the real issues. Let us show the public a unified front. Let us show the public that we have solidarity based upon timeless human values and principles.

Here are some suggestions;

    • Do not publicly criticize a member of the opposition; settle differences in private.
    • Do not publicly correct a member of the opposition directly or by name; instead, if a member has given wrong information, then offer your own information without directly implicating the particular member. If necessary, you can discuss the matter in private.
  • In regards to the above, when speaking in public, be sure of your information and its source.
rosia-montana-blog-officer-boy

Compassion: The Secret Weapon

Photo by Bill Hoenk

In the wake of the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon in America, seeing photos of innocent men, women and children confused and in pain, missing legs and loved ones, their lives shattered, I feel an intense emotion arise within me and I tell myself that we, as a human community, must cleanse ourselves of the disease that twists our perception of this world into a place of self-gain where our view becomes so distorted that we seek to harm others. This disease threatens to destroy us, as a species, or, at the very least, to destroy millions of lives as it has done so for thousands of years. Do we have the capacity to change?

In reality, the root of what makes terrorists kill innocent people is the same root that causes a company to destroy a community for profit, a politician to accept a bribe that cheats his constituents or a man to tell lies about his neighbor; the sense of separation. The feeling that we are different from one another, that we do not possess a commonality leads to prejudices that says I am better than you, that my country is better, my religion, my color, my name. From there, it is only a short step to justify our anger towards our neighbor, our resentment of his gains that, somehow, he doesn’t deserve what he gets. Yet, it never enters our minds even once that, like the Sun, God shines His light on all of us unconditionally and that our life is the way it is because we have made it so.

Since coming to Rosia Montana last year, I have come to realize that open-pit mining is not the biggest threat to this community. The biggest threat comes from each of us. It comes from how we look upon each other without compassion. Compassion is the understanding that human beings are simply acting according to how they see the world. It is one of the greatest tools a community can possess and makes a nation strong but it starts with us, as individuals.

Everyone deserves compassion but do not think compassion is weak. Compassion is infinitely strong and with it, you will better understand those with whom you disagree. That understanding has the capacity to bring solutions for a compromise or a new strategy to win your “enemies” hearts and bring them onto your side. It may be that differences remain and that no compromise is possible, but you will do your duty with love and not hate.

It’s not easy; facing a company or someone you disagree with is not an easy task for most of us. Yet, compassion softens your eyes and you begin to see the situation in a different way because you see the world in a different way. You begin to perform actions that are of benefit to all and become less interested in actions purely for self-gain.

In that moment, you understand that your neighbor is simply seeking happiness and security in the best way he knows how, that a company is lead by individual men and women and those men and women are simply seeking happiness and security in the only way they know. You realize that under all the pretension and hoopla and frenzied activity we all seek the same thing; we simply want to be happy, to know peace.

In truth, we do share a bond; it’s the bond of being human.

We have all been given the opportunity to make this world a paradise and though our definition of paradise may differ, let us remember what we are seeking – happiness.

And that, my friend, is compassion.

Getting it Right: The problem is not the miners; it’s the mining company

On my way to the Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation’s office this morning, I passed a group of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) employees who have been working on a water pipe and rebuilding a stone wall near the house where I live. As they have every morning for the past several weeks, each one looked me in the eye and nodded his head or said “Nea?a!” (Morning!). Responding with my own nod and an American-accented version of “Buna diminea?a!” I realized something about the controversial open-pit mining issue here in Rosia Montana; these men have jobs in a country where jobs are scarce.

That’s not the problem.

The problem is that the objectives of the mining company are destructive and unsustainable not that men and women are their employees.  This is an important distinction and one that we should all understand well for within its understanding is a voice that calls out “The people need jobs!” and a clue to a major weakness in the mining company’s position: their employees are not loyal to the company; they are loyal to a job.

Miners pass by propaganda by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation

Miners passing by a propaganda banner raised by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation.
Photo by Alexandra.

I sometime’s notice how convenient it is for those opposing the mine to resent the men and women who wear the “green and yellow jackets” of the mining company forgetting that RMGC is just a means for these individuals to feed their families, pay their children’s doctor bills and have money to take care of their elderly parents in a country where rural jobs are hard to find. Should we blame them?

Instead, let us renew our efforts to develop and offer real alternatives for the locals who want nothing more than a good paying job. Rebuilding a stone wall, repairing a water pipe, renovating a house and laying a new road; these can all be done rather as part of a sustainable tourist development project than an unsustainable, open-pit mining operation that destroys communities and the environment.

When the opposition can offer a real plan of sustainable economic development and take concrete steps to make it happen, we will see support for the project evaporate like a morning mountain mist once it feels the Sun. Will it be easy? Of course not, for RMGC knows well how to play the corporate game; they have spent years and millions of dollars not only promoting the open-pit mine as the only savior of Rosia Montana but also influencing local regulations and implementing depopulation strategies that have nearly destroyed the Rosia Montana community.

However, it is they who hold the weak hand. Their only true support are themselves, board members who sit in their offices in Toronto and seek profit at any cost. Even their stakeholders are not loyal.

The men and women of Rosia Montana who work for RMGC want to take responsibility for their lives. They know the cost to their community; they see the vacant homes, the buildings falling into ruin and the company misinformation that leads to division and conflict but they feel stuck; they need a job.

Let’s give it to them. Let the green and yellow jackets of the mining company fade from memory but let us keep the spirit of those who wore them alive through truly sustainable jobs. For their spirit of hard work, responsibility and duty is the foundation upon which a great community is built. And, together, we shall see Rosia Montana prosper, again, not only for our generation, but for all generations to come.