Offering a stark warning of how corporate-friendly trade pacts like the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) put both democracy and the environment at risk, a Canadian company is seeking damages from Romania after being blocked from creating an open-pit gold mine over citizen concerns. Gabriel Resources Ltd. announced that it had filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes to seek as much as $4 billion of damages.
The corporation's Rosia Montana open-pit gold mine project stalled after a series of protests in cities across Romania in 2013 demanded Gabriel's plan be dropped. Romanian residents and environmental activists have opposed the mine since it was proposed in the 1990s, charging that it would blast off mountaintops, destroy a potential UNESCO World Heritage site, and displace residents from the town of Rosia Montana and nearby villages. In particular, local communities opposed the use of cyanide as part of the extraction process. Such opposition led to widespread street protests in 2013, which in turn pressured the Romanian Parliament to reject a bill introduced by the government that would have paved the way for the mine. Now, Gabriel Resources, which holds an 80 percent stake in the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, says the country has violated international treaties.
With the vast expansion of the use of Investor-State Dispute Settlement brought about by the TTIP Romanians and other Europeans can only expect more of such cases. TTIP and a few other trade agreements being negotiated at the moment would expand the coverage of investor-state arbitration from around 20% to around 80% of investment flows to and from the U.S. and the EU. The recent case opened by Gabriel Resources against Romania serves as an omen of what Europe's future may look like if citizen power is not restored. Corporations whose operations are resource-extracting (mining, fracking, gas, oil, etc.) look at geological reports and only see dollar$. They lay waste to pristine areas, villages, towns and pollute soil, air, and water that may never be saved, restored or returned. History has shown what wanton ravaging of natural resources does to all flora and fauna; our planet is consumed by the drive to accumulate profits.