(Corrects to removes reference to cyanide use in copper
extraction in paragraph 9.)
* In lower house, 302 votes against draft law and one in
* Rejection of bill puts the project on hold for now
* Canada's Gabriel has been awaiting approval for more than
By Luiza Ilie
BUCHAREST, June 3 Romania's lower house of
parliament rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed
Canada's Gabriel Resources to proceed with plans to set
up Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine, putting the project on
The bill, which was initially approved by the leftist
government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, drew thousands of
anti-mine protesters into the streets across the European Union
country last year, prompting the senate to strike it down.
The lower house had the final say, and data it published on
Tuesday showed deputies rejected the draft law with 302 votes
against and one in favour.
Romania is one of Europe's poorest countries but it is
comparatively rich in natural resources, including gas, coal and
gold. Tuesday's vote has kicked into the long grass a project
the government has said is vital to reviving an ailing mining
sector in a Romanian region in dire need of jobs and investment.
Gabriel has been waiting for more than 15 years for approval
to use cyanide to mine about 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes
of silver in the small town of Rosia Montana. The local unit of
Gabriel Resources declined to comment on Tuesday.
The project aimed to create four gold quarries over the
mine's lifespan on four mountain peaks.
The mine has drawn fierce opposition from civil rights and
environmental groups which argue it would destroy ancient Roman
mine galleries and villages, and could lead to an ecological
disaster. Neighbouring Hungary also opposed it.
The company has given assurances that it would use the most
advanced safeguards to prevent damage to the environment. But
the sight of a nearby tailings pond that is the product of a
decades-old industrial project, has been used by protesters to
highlight fears about the potential fallout of the gold mine.
State-owned copper miner Cupru Min started that pond in the
1970s under the communist regime when it poured toxic chemicals
that result from copper extraction into the village of Geamana,
not far from Rosia Montana in Alba county.
As for Gabriel's project, the Romanian parliament also
rejected changes to general mining legislation that would have
made it easier for the gold mine to start late last year.
One of the company's certificates was revoked in court this
year after a local environmental group challenged it.
Separately, the country's environment minister was quoted as
saying in May his ministry will finance new studies because of
uncertainties over the proposed tailings pond.
Parliament's rejection of Tuesday's bill puts the project on
hold for now, though it could theoretically be revived if a new
bill were brought forward at a later stage. That is unlikely to
happen any time soon, with the government gearing up to fight a
presidential election in November.
Earlier this year, Gabriel laid off about 80 percent of the
workers at its Romanian subsidiary, or nearly 400 people. On a
Reuters visit in April, the town's historical centre where the
company's offices are located looked deserted, with several
pro-mining banners fluttering in the wind.
Gabriel has estimated Romania, which holds a minority stake
in the project, would get $5.2 billion in taxes, royalties,
services and jobs, or roughly three quarters of overall benefits
from the project. That estimate has been challenged by
protesters and NGOs who oppose the project.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Matthias Williams and