March 13 Gabriel Resources Ltd may lay
off about 80 percent of the workers at its Romanian subsidiary,
or nearly 400 people, unless prospects for its Rosia Montana
gold mine improve, the Canadian company said on Thursday.
Gabriel is trying to secure permits for Rosia Montana, which
would be Europe's biggest open-pit gold mine. The company said
it had given the workers redundancy notices and might terminate
contracts, effective May 1.
"We still remain fully committed to constructing and
operating a mine at Rosia Montana, but we need to see a similar
commitment from Romania," Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Henry
said in a statement.
Gabriel has been working on Rosia Montana, its only advanced
project, for 15 years. While some in Romania support building
the mine, many others oppose it on environmental grounds.
When the government backed the project last autumn, years
had passed without major protests, but activists mobilized
quickly, largely on Facebook, and thousands turned up at
protests across the country.
A parliamentary commission rejected a draft bill in November
that would have allowed Rosia Montana to proceed. A second
attempt to approve the project as part of a new mining law
failed in December.
Gabriel said on Thursday it did not know when the government
could approve its environmental permits.
Rosia Montana is an old mining district, and an abandoned
mine sits in the middle of Gabriel's site. But the company has
proposed something much bigger, with four open pits. Some
villagers would need to move, and others already have.
Some Romanians want cyanide, the toxic chemical Gabriel
would need to process ore, banned outright. The company has
vowed to abide by tough environmental standards and safely store
waste that would contain small amounts of cyanide.
Thursday's news came as Gabriel reported its fourth-quarter
financial results. Its cash balance fell to C$42.1 million
($37.82 million) as of Dec. 31 from C$79.0 million a year
The company's loss for the quarter narrowed to C$527,000, or
nil Canadian cents per share, from C$2.5 million, or 1 Canadian
cent a share, a year earlier.
Shares of Gabriel were down 2.5 percent at C$1.16 in early
trading in Toronto.