Update: The referendum had a turnout of 37 percent by 18:00 on Sunday. Over 13,000 people casted their ballots, according to Antena 3, a private broadcaster. The highest turnout was registered in Rosia Montana locality. The referendum needs a minimum turnout of 51 percent to be valid.
A CCSB exit poll showed that 74 percent of the voters want mining to restart in the Apuseni region, while 21 percent oppose this.
Close to 73,000 eligible voters within 35 localities from Alba County, are expected to head to the polls on December 9, when Parliamentary elections are held, to decide on the resumption of mining in the Apuseni Mountains, particularly in Rosia Montana.
Do you agree with the reopening of mining activities in the Apuseni Mountains and of the exploitation in Rosia Montana?, is the question that people living in this area have to answer.
“This referendum should give the people within the communities in the Apuseni Mountain region, who will benefit from and be most affected by this significant project, an opportunity to express their wishes for their future prosperity,” said Jonathan Henry, president and CEO of Gabriel Resources, the Canadian-listed developer of the Rosia Montana project.
“We believe that this referendum will clearly demonstrate that people in the Apuseni region strongly support the creation of thousands of jobs, long-term sustainable development and environmental remediation that can be delivered by modern, safe, responsible mining in Rosia Montana,” said the CEO in an official statement.
The gold and silver mining would be carried out by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), the Romanian subsidiary of Gabriel Resources, where it holds an 80.7 percent stake. The rest is owned by a CNCAF Minvest, a state-controlled miner.
Gabriel Resources acknowledged that the outcome of the referendum is not legally binding, but it puts forwards the benefits of this project.
Rosia Montana project to create 800 mining jobs
The Alburnus Maior Association, an NGO which aims to save Rosia Montana, slammed the referendum as “worthless” as it’s paid from public funds and has no legal representation. The referendum runs a cost of 0.3 million RON, which is more than half a million euro.
The NGO said the referendum would have been useful, if it were organized in 2002, when development works were started. It added the referendum will serve as “false advertising” for RMGC, exerting pressure on the government to grant mining permits.
Meanwhile, the company is expecting a Technical Analysis Committee (TAC) to vote on the environmental committee or to release its recommendations to the government. The ore in Rosia Montana will be mined through open pit mining and involves cyanide.
“In the absence of any public commitment from the Romanian government, the timeline for permitting the project remains uncertain, and is likely to remain so until after the December parliamentary elections,” said Henry.
The company estimates an annual production of around 610,000 ounces of gold and 2.6 million ounces of silver, over the first five years. It will be scaled back to 485,000 ounces of gold and 1.8 million ounces of silver over the next 16 years.
Gabriel forecasts an initial capital cost of USD 1.4 billion and another USD 571 million for sustaining these costs during the exploitation period. The company has already invested USD 400 million in Rosia Montana up to now. It would create 2,300 direct jobs during the construction period, and 800 in the mining period.