The leader of an Eastern European country prodded the newly tapped environmental minister to rapidly decide on a pressing mining project that is believed to hold as much as 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver, according to published reports.
Traian Basescu, president of Romania, has endorsed the Rosia Montana mining project, which centers on a picturesque countryside. Earlier this week, Attila Korodi took the oath of office as the environmental minister, according to Agence France-Presse. He said he is taking his time to decide on the project, which cannot begin until he issues an environmental permit.
Rosia Montana is the site of Transylvania and the base of Count Dracula mythology, which is why blasting through mountains to access the mass amounts of precious metal is so controversial. The president supports the mining project because of the jobs it will create in the country where joblessness is of issue.
"Since 1997, the Romanian authorities have shunned responsibility regarding Rosia Montana," Basescu said shortly after Korodi was installed. "If you think that the mine can work and if you want to do Romania some good by creating jobs, go ahead and give the necessary permit quickly. If not, just say no to the company, because every day that passes will cost us a lot in an upcoming lawsuit."
The Rosia Montana Gold Corporation is 80 percent owned by Gabriel Resources, a Canadian company.
The company's plan is to use cyanide to pull out the yellowish metal that is believed to be the largest single deposit of gold in Europe. Assuring that it will hold high regard for European environmental protection standards, the company also is set to invest as much as the equivalent of $1.7 billion in euros.
But a host of preservationists are advocating for the environment and the Roman-era mining galleries that they say will be irreparably damaged by the mining. Opponents include international organizations, historians, archaeologists and environmentalists.
But the immensity of the project and its ramifications merit more thought than what's required to deliver a quick decision, Korodi told a radio station, according to Bloomberg.
After having been sworn in on Tuesday, Korodi told Radio France International that he is acting with due regard and caution and his decision is unlikely to come soon.
Korodi will "analyze in great detail in the next few weeks, the project's procedure for assessing environmental risk," he told the radio station.
The Associated Press reports he said the central issues with which he is wrestling is "whether what we have now is good for Romania."
Korodi steps into a position that has seen its past holders opt against issuing the permit, which the president has criticized as "cowardice and demagogy," AFP reports.
A Romanian court last week ruled against the validity of an important zoning permit, which is considered a strong knock against the Rosia Montana project.
In any case, the top official of Gabriel Resources said the company he leads is committed to moving forward with the project, according to a press release. President and chief executive officer Jonathan Henry said that commitment is "resolute" and important for the company, shareholders and the nation, which owns equity in the project.
"We believe we are making real progress in articulating the economic advantages of this excellent project," Henry said. "Furthermore, we continue to fight vigorously the misleading accusations and legal cases brought by a small minority that are impeding the willingness of the majority of Romanians to develop a modern mining industry that will bring jobs and economic growth where it is much needed."