News 20 Feb 13

Romania Plans To Reopen Disused Mines

Following growing expressions of interest in its mineral reserves, Romania plans to reopen some of the mines it shut earlier.

Marian Chiriac

Romania's centre-left government is planning to draft a law to allow coal and non-ferrous-metal mines to reopen, according to officials.

“We will draft a law to allow some mines to resume operations. They need new technology and private funds, and the legislation aims to speed up the mine-licensing process,” the Economy Minister, Varujan Vosganian, said.

Vosganian added that the decision reflected increased interest among foreign investors in Romania’s coal and uranium reserves.

A controversial plan by the Canadian company Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, RMGC, to use cyanide in an open-cast gold mine in central Transylvania to extract 10.6 million ounces of gold over a decade is not covered by the draft law, the minister added.

RMGC obtained a licence to exploit the gold reserves more than ten years ago but is still trying to obtain all the required environmental and archaeological permits. The company insists that it will use the latest environmentally-friendly technology and says it will preserve local heritage.

According to Euracoal, Romania's known hard coal resources are estimated at 650 million tonnes, of which 252.5 million tonnes are commercially exploitable.

There are still around a dozen coal mines in operation. In 2011, Romania’s coal production was of 35.49 million tonnes, around 0.16 per cent of the world total.

In 1997, Romania launched a programme with World Bank funds to close unprofitable mines. Since then, around 550 mines were suspended or shut.

Till now, restructuring the mining sector has proven difficult for Bucharest given the lack of foreign investment and official unwillingness to take harsh measures that might have made mines profitable, out of fear of industrial action.

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