Do you care about the environment and the preservation of world cultural heritage? Then join us on a student-run volunteering project meant to support sustainable development in an old mining village in Western Romania (Transylvania).
The story: Gold has been mined in Rosia Montana since the ancient times of Romans. While there is still precious metal dispersed in microscopic quantities throughout the area, traditional mining can no longer be made efficiently, hence the proposal initiated by Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining corporation, to create Europe’s largest open cast gold mine. The metal would be extracted through strip-mining, which includes blowing up (dynamiting) the entire mountain & surrounding villages, blasting and pulverizing the landscape, exposing the waters in the area to hazardous cyanide compounds. The mining project is supposed to last for 10-15 years, extract 300 tons of gold and provide a significant number of jobs to the largely unemployed local miners. The real tragedy is carefully hidden: precious archaeological traces of the Roman presence in the area, entire settlements not yet fully researched together with some of the oldest mines in Europe would be wiped out forever, along with a remarkable medieval settlement & adjacent gorgeous mountain valleys.
The result would be an ecological disaster affecting not only local villages, but also the surrounding waters (which eventually flow into neighboring Hungary). The destruction of the landscape, doubled by the criminal eradication of extensive archaeological treasures, which could be hardly reconstituted or relocated, called for a concerted opposition from NGOs and environmental groups worldwide, the Romanian Academy, the Church, the Romanian Royal House, the Hungarian government, EU officials etc. Some of those efforts really start to bear fruition now, after many years of struggle. But in spite of the rejected licenses and lost trials, the company just wouldn’t back off, after spending more than $300M on buying houses, relocating people and bribing Romanian authorities. Rosia Montana needs more than ever a clear & consistent strategy for long-term sustainable development, as an alternative to mining!
Here comes our volunteering project: we partner with local NGO “Alburnus Maior” in supporting local tourism, traditional crafts, organic agriculture and other sustainable, environmentally friendly activities that would restore back the hope and provide income to the locals. We want to focus on marketing the natural and historical treasures of the place and help transforming the village into an attractive tourist destination. Much of the work will build upon the projects started by “Alburnus Maior” during the past few years and our last-year initiative (August 17-26, 2008) and will include: convincing regional tourism agents to invest in the area, encouraging people to open bed & breakfasts, providing crash-courses of foreign languages targeted at welcoming tourists, advertise the various opportunities for development.
In addition to meeting the locals and framing projects to serve their needs, we will explore the area accompanied by local guides, hike the surrounding mountains and caves, listen to local songs and legends. Rosia Montana doesn’t lack natural beauties and opportunities for tourism of any sort. It has just been deprived of its HOPE, and our mission is to restore both the hope and the pride of its locals. Everyone is encouraged to do their own research & come up with solutions, drawing from personal experience and interests. By putting together everyone’s ideas, we can hope for a program that would serve longer-term development goals. Prepare for an exciting summer adventure & a chance to make a lasting impact on a local community that is very much in need of your enthusiasm!
* Total estimated costs: $250 travel & living costs for 8 days in Romania. Cheap air fare from anywhere in Europe.
* Related websites: Romanian Students Association at Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~rssa
* Facebook group
* More information about last year’s initiative at