Rosia Montana, Romania – An interview with Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation Executive Director David Alan Paty appeared in the April 2013, issue 1066 of Formula AS, a national Romanian newspaper.
Below is an English transcript of that interview.
Who are you?
I live in Rosia Montana and I am the Executive Director of the Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation. I was born in the UK and raised in America. My father was an officer in the United States Air Force and he instilled in me the importance of doing one’s duty with honor and integrity. I have a university degree in Computer Science and Business and I have completed post-graduate courses in Sustainable Natural Resources and Environmental Philosophy. I had my own businesses in America and did volunteer work for NGOs committed to environmental education for schoolchildren and in protecting open land for everyone to enjoy. I came to Romania to experience some of Europe’s last areas of wilderness and to experience the world-renown Romanian hospitality. I have not been disappointed!
When did you find out something about Rosia Montana?
The controversy of open-pit mining in Rosia Montana is not well known in America. I first heard of the struggle to protect Rosia Montana’s patrimony from my friend Alexandra Dodu who is the Associate Director of the Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation. We were exploring Romania’s Natural parks and decided to see first hand what was happening in Rosia Montana. That is how we came to Rosia Montana. It was here that we met Sorin Jurca, a local who has been a strong voice in opposing open-pit mining, and it was his story and the stories of others struggling to save their community that inspired us to help the Foundation.
After 7 months of living in Rosia Montana, what does it mean for you?
I have traveled all over America and Canada and I do not recall ever being in a place filled with so much history and culture over such a long time. Rosia Montana is amazing! I have seen pre-Roman mining vestiges, walked through Roman galleries and climbed past Raven’s Rock to the top of Mt Carnic with views that reach forever. I have witnessed, first-hand, the strength of the Romanian people, listened to their stories of yesteryear and felt their devotion to God on Sunday. I have drunk fresh milk from a cow, tasted cheese pie and sampled homemade wine. Rosia Montana is a treasure trove of beautiful experiences where every season brings its bounty. Romanians have a right, and a duty, to be proud of Rosia Montana, the birthplace of Romanians.
What have you done in Rosia Montana?
I am the Executive Director of the Rosia Montana Cultural Foundation. Our mission at the Foundation is to preserve and protect the cultural and natural heritage of Rosia Montana for our generation and all future generations. I help with strategic planning and in developing projects and sustainable economic alternatives.
What kind of people did you meet in Romania and Rosia Montana?
The people of Romania are beautiful souls. I have seen a willingness to sacrifice for what they believe and a resourcefulness to find a way to do what needs to be done. At the Foundation, we are all volunteers and it is amazing to see the work that is done with no expectation of reward; just the sincere desire to do the right thing.
However, I have noticed something missing in many Romanians; the understanding that they have the power to create the kind of government, country and life they want. In America, every child is raised believing that, with dedication and right effort, they can be anything; an engineer, a traveler, a scholar, even President. In Romania, too often I see people resigned to a life of difficulty and oppression with no chance of change. I believe this comes from Romania’s history of being oppressed, most recently, by communist dictators. Nevertheless, Romania is a young democracy and, with time, the people of Romania will come to realize the power they have.
In Rosia Montana we have a strange situation: a foreign junior corporation is making the rules and the law. Do you imagine this happening in the USA? Taking into account that all foreign shareholders of RMGC are Americans, do you see these American corporations (Newmont Mining, Barrick, etc.) doing the same illegalities they did here in Romania?
This kind of thing has and does happen in America. The difference is that Americans tend to have a strong respect for their heritage and the environment as reflected in strong environmental programs and organizations and in the laws America has enacted to protect its cultural and natural heritage. As a result, it is more difficult for companies to break the law or create havoc in the environment in America.
Also, I do not agree that RMGC has only American shareholders; however, it is interesting to note that Newmont Mining owns nearly 20% of Gabriel Resources. Newmont Mining is one of the world’s largest gold mining companies and many analysts believe they will take over RMGC if the project begins. Most people don’t realize that Newmont Mining is not accountable for the promises made by RMGC. Besides, Newmont Mining has been embroiled in a huge controversy at their gold mine in Peru for years. They have been accused of polluting the water and the environment and destroying a community. Is this the kind of company the people of Romania want to trust with their heritage and their environment?
Now you know the already too long history of this mining project. What is this? Primitive capitalism? The conquest of a poor country? The high level corruption? The Mafia? The what?
It is not a coincidence that projects like what is proposed by RMGC are planned in communities like Rosia Montana. This would not be happening if Rosia Montana was a village of Bucharest millionaires and/or celebrities. Big projects like these are planned for rural areas with low socio-economic status because it is only in these kinds of places that the lure of money can get people to abandon what they have fought for, turn their back on their neighbor and close their eyes when their community is destroyed.
Which is, in your view, the “basement”, the basis of the RMGC project?
Any corporation, no matter how big, begins with a man or woman having the desire to possess power and money. In the same way, RMGC was spawned from a man’s desire to gain wealth for himself through Romania’s natural resources. Unfortunately, the desire for power and wealth does not automatically come with proper discrimination, the ability to make action for the good of all.
They managed to conquer even the political power on the local and somehow even central level. How is that possible? What did they speculate in the local level and, generally speaking, in democratic Romania?
From what I can see, the desire to attain or possess that which we do not have is at the root of most actions. This is not necessarily a bad thing; for example, the desire to attain spiritual knowledge or to provide for one’s family is good. However, what causes harm is the fear and discontent that comes with a desire that remains unfulfilled. Unfulfilled desire causes one to forget what is right and wrong, beneficial and harmful and causes an otherwise good man to do bad actions.
How do you comment on the suspected help they (RMGC) receive from the County Council, and from the local city hall? Is the projected employment of hundreds of people one of the real reasons? In fact, is that plausible to have such a paradise of jobs after they start the project?
It’s hard for me to believe that some of the local and county officials are selling their principles because they believe jobs will be had. First of all, when you look at the labor statistics from the Romanian government, about 9 million people in Romania are employed. It has been reported that only a few hundred direct jobs will be created with an indirect benefit to about two thousand more. How is this number supposed to help Romania? The Nokia plant that closed near Cluj employed over two thousand and that was just one plant.
Second, in regards to principles, let us be real. A man will go against his principles only if he expects a personal gain to offset his sleepless nights and troubled conscience.
Is it worth for Romania to sell its gold abroad? In exchange of what? Romania will lose four mountains, two villages, a few old churches, hundreds of acres of forest, and over all a huge archaeological heritage, unique in the World.
Romanians have a lot to lose and I can only hope that they realize this before it is too late. It is amazing to me that Romanians have allowed this story to go on for so long. In America, the rest of Europe and in Canada, the home of RMGC, this kind of project would not even get off the drawing board so instant and so fierce would be the opposition. RMGC is here only because they think the Romanian people are simple-minded. It’s a disgrace.
Are Romanians really willing to sacrifice a world heritage site and their environment for a handful of jobs that will end in 15 years? I say a thunderous “No!” If the Romanian people are given a better way to earn their living, they will abandon the mining company in a flash.
Let’s develop a truly sustainable economic plan for the area and let us not be fooled into thinking open-pit mining is sustainable in any way. Sustainable open-pit mining is an oxymoron and I do not believe the Romanian people believe in it.
What is your recommendation for local people who still resist to the corporate rollers, and what NGOs should do in order to be more efficient? Which is your recommendation for the Romanian Government (the Ministry of Environment)?
My recommendation to the Romanian government is, first, to remember why they were elected, to serve their country, and second, to realize both the value and the impermanence of human life; it is much better to do what is beneficial for our generation and all future generations than to gain a moment of pleasure.
For the NGOs and the locals who oppose the project I recommend that they come together and create a stronger, more united voice, one that is capable of creating the kind of life they envision. The company is very well aware of the power of being united. In fact, it has been reported that one of the first things the company did was to hire a psychologist to determine what was necessary to create division and separation in the community; separation from their homes, from their heritage, from each other.
How do you see the future of RM? How can it be developed?
I see the need for a real, practical sustainable economic alternative. If you examine closely those who support the project, you will actually find that the company’s support is very weak. People are loyal to jobs, not the company. If an authentic means of economic viability was offered, you would see support for the project evaporate like rain on a hot street. People want to support their families and send their kids to school but I also know they do not want to destroy their communities, pollute their air and water and crush centuries of their heritage under the weight of mining trucks.
No matter how many millions the company spends on advertising, fancy 3-D computer graphics or meaningless referendums, I believe the people of Romania will not be fooled into believing the company actually cares about them or Romania. Romania is a beautiful land and her people are strong, resilient and determined and I do not believe they will ever allow foreign companies the right to destroy their lives, steal their resources and pollute their land. Romanians have the blood of Dacian and Roman warriors in their veins and I am proud to be a part of their story.