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.
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.