* Govt approved gold mine plan, parliament vote needed
* Protesters criticise cyanide, relocation issues
BUCHAREST, Sept 1 Thousands of Romanians across
the country rallied late on Sunday to protest against the
leftist government's support for a plan to open Europe's biggest
open-cast gold mine in the small Carpathian town of Rosia
The project, which aims to use cyanide to mine 314 tonnes of
gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver, has drawn fierce opposition
from civic rights groups and environmentalists, who say it would
destroy ancient Roman gold mines and villages.
It is led by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, majority-owned
by Canada's Gabriel Resources Ltd with the Romanian
government holding roughly 20 percent.
The project has been valued at $7.5 billion based on a 2007
study that used an average price of $900 per ounce of gold, with
Romania estimated to get about 75 percent of the benefits in
taxes, royalties, dividends and jobs.
Gold currently trades around $1,390 per ounce.
Earlier this week the government approved a draft law
enabling Gabriel to open the mine after securing a bigger stake
in the project, which has been awaiting a green light for 14
years. Parliament is expected to vote on the law this month.
In the capital Bucharest, up to 3,000 protesters marched
towards the government headquarters from University Square, the
scene of violent anti-austerity protests early last year that
toppled a previous government.
Protesters held aloft banners saying "United for Rosia
Montana" and "Our children don't want cyanide". Protesters also
gathered in the northwestern Romanian city of Cluj. A separate
rally against shale gas exploration, drew another 2,000 people
onto the streets in the eastern town of Barlad.
"This protest can get people together," said Ioana Paun, 28,
who joined the protest in Bucharest. "From what I am hearing
around me, this is only the beginning."
Prime Minister Victor Ponta strongly opposed the project
before he took power in May last year yet voted for the draft
law enabling the mine, only to tell a local television station
that he would vote against the project in parliament.
Most Rosia Montana residents hope the project will bring
jobs and money to their impoverished town, which suffered when a
state-owned gold mine closed in 2006. Only a small number of the
town's of 2,800 residents refuse to sell their property to make
way for the mine.
The company proposes carving open four quarries over the
mine's lifespan, work that would destroy four mountain tops and
wipe out three outlying villages of the 16 that make up Rosia
Montana municipality, while preserving the town's historical