Verespatak to be debated at UNESCO

The inclusion of Verespatak (Roşia Montană) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site will be debated next week, Minister of Culture Bogdan Gheorghiu announced on Sunday. “The probability that the area will be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is 99 percent,” the politician said in an interview with the Digi24 news channel.

Chances that Verespatak is declared a World Heritage Site following the July 25 meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee are very high; as the opinion of the experts is already known, its admission will be practically a formality, Gheorghiu said.

“As there are Romanian experts working with the committee as well, we know that this international forum is of the opinion that the area should undoubtedly be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, thus the following procedure will be practically just a formality,” the Minister of Culture added. He emphasized that the admission procedure of Verespatak was reinitiated by the National Liberal Government (PNL) last year. When asked what his mandate from the Cîţu Government is for the July 25 meeting, Gheorghiu replied: “We didn’t just resume a procedure to go to the final meeting with a different position than the one we had when we expressed our wish for inclusion.”

At the beginning of July though, 74 NGOs addressed a letter to Gheorghiu and to the leader of the National Liberal Party, Ludovic Orban, asking them to move forward with the admission procedure. The open letter was sent, as there were some worrying signs suggesting that the government was considering the postponement or withdrawal of the application submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Gheorghiu noted during the television interview that there was some “ambiguous communication” regarding the Verespatak case, as “there are politicians who are advocating for the resumption of mining in the area.”

“The integration into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and mining […] do not necessarily exclude each other,” said the minister of culture. He mentioned, however, that it is not known how cyanides stored at the site [editor’s note: in a reservoir for cyanide-laden waste products produced by any eventual open-pit mine] would spread in the case of floods.

“Anyhow, as things stand, I believe that on July 25 we will witness the inclusion of Roşia Montana on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites,” Gheorghiu added.

The municipality of Verespatak is located in the Apuseni Mountains, in an area of natural beauty. Geological measurements indicate that the mountain rising over the settlement contains one of the largest gold deposits in Europe. A Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, obtained a mining license from the Romanian government in 1999 and planned to establish an open-pit mine. This would have entailed the total demolition of a large part of the mountain, as well as historical gravesites and historical mining structures. The project was not finalized due to civil society protests; the Canadian company then initiated a lawsuit against Romania at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).


Title image: Verespatak (Roşia Montană) will likely be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, says the Minister of Culture. The photo captures a detail of the historical mining tunnel under Verespatak.

Source: Muzeul Mineritului Rosia Montana/Facebook

Author: Éva Zay