Baia Mare gold exploitation, Romania

Cyanide spill in 2000 caused severe contamination and it took ten years to restore fauna and flora in what is called "the second Chernobyl"


The plant in Baia Mare, liable for the accident of January 2000, is called now Romaltyn Mining and between 2008 – April 2012 was owned by Polyus Gold, the largest gold producer in Russia. Since 2006 the company ceased all activity. According to the site report of Romaltyn Mining updated in 2012, the new planned mining activities would be performed at three different locations in Baia Mare, technologically connected by a 13.6 km long pipe network crossing the city from east to west.

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Basic Data
NameBaia Mare gold exploitation, Romania
SiteBaia Mare
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific Commoditiespyrites
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe tailings in the Central tailings dam are the raw material for Romaltyn Mining SRL. In addition to tailings Romaltyn will also process pyrites and other mining products. The tailings are processed by cyaniding and by contact with activated carbon (CIP-CIL), but this method uses similar quantities of cyanide as classical cyanidation technologies. The precious metals content is lower than 0.001% of the raw material. Romaltyn intends to process 8.5 mil. tonnes of mining waste over three years. After processing, the cyanide tailings from the technological process would be disposed of in Aurul tailings dam. The average consumption of cyanide for leaching is 1.4 kg per tonne of mining waste. This gives a necessary quantity of 11,900 t of cyanide for processing mining waste in the Central tailings dam.

The recovery of tailings disposed of in the Central Tailings Dam is planned based on the License for exploitation no. 1/1998 obtained by Transgold SA Baia Mare, which was transferred to Romaltyn Mining by Order 100/ 25.06.2007 of the ANRM president. The new owners propose a new mining project with the same scenario – processing of mining waste from the tailings dams and the mining waste dumps. According to Addendum no. 6 of 09.07.2012, the duration of the license for exploitation no. 1/1998 was extended until 8 July 2017. The Governmental Decision no. 437 of June 2013 approved the concession license no. 1/1998 for recovery of mining waste from the tailings dam Săsar (MEDA) and the Central Flotation tailings dam for Romaltyn Mining.
Level of Investment (in USD)6,000,000 invested by the Romanian state + 28,000,000 invested by Esmeralda Exploitation Ltd
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Populationaprox. 125000 people
Start Date30/01/2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesRomaltyn Mining SRL from Romania - Owner of the project
Esmeralda Exploitation Ltd from Australia - previous owner
Aurul SA from Romania - previous owner
Polyus Gold from Russian Federation - Previous owner
Fribourg Capital from Romania - Main shareholder
Relevant government actorsNational Agency for Mineral Resources (NAMR)

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MMSC)

Maramures City Council

Maramures Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersThe Mining Watch Romania network

Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources

Alburnus Maior Association

Efectul Fluture Association
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Genetic contamination, Global warming, Noise pollution, Oil spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Baia Mare disaster of 2000 caused, in the following years a review of the EU environmental legislation.

Even so, the spill of 100.000 tons of cyanide tailings damaged the fauna and flora for at least 10 years, from the Sasar river to the Danube. The spill costed the Romanian state 100 million $ compensation required by Hungary.

The locals affected by the accident were never compensated, neither by the Australian company that went bankrupt, nor by the Romanian authorities that tried to deny the true scale of the disaster.

Also, at the moment, the conflict between Romaltyn and the Baia Mare city hall is into trial.
Sources and Materials

Romanian Mining Law
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Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive - Natura 2000)
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Decision 2009/337/ CE transposed by Governmental Decision HG 856/2008.
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Mining Watch Romania - Baia Mare
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Raport de amplasament
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Localizarea uzinei Romaltyn Mining în orașul Baia Mare se judecă în instanță
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Polyus Gold Int Ltd PLGL Sale of Romaltyn Mining and Romaltyn Exploration
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The Cyanide Spill at Baia Mare, Romania

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No cyanide at Baia Mare
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Asociatia 22 Decembrie solicita Consiliului Local amanarea datei referendumului anti-poluare – Joi, ora 12, este programat un miting de protest in fata Primariei Baia Mare
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Incredibil: Oficializarea abuzului puterii – Agentia Nationala de Protectia Mediului cere Prefecturii Maramures sa forteze Consiliul Local sa emita autorizatia de construire pentru uzina mortii de la Romaltyn Mining
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Incredibil: In timp ce Primaria Baia Mare organizeaza referendumul anti-poluare, Agentia de Protectia Mediului face presiuni pentru deschiderea Romaltyn Mining
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Probleme pentru Romaltyn – Seful Comisiei de Urbanism: “Nu sunt de acord sa functioneze intr-o zona rezidentiala”
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Zece ani de la poluarea cu cianuri de la mina "Aurul" din Baia Mare
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CEDO a condamnat Romania pentru poluarea cu cianuri de la Baia Mare din 2000
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Impounded mine tailings:

What are the failures telling us?
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Death of a river
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Other Documents

The Baia Mare spill is considered the second Cernobyl The Baia Mare accident in 2000 occurred on the territory of this town, in Bozânta Mare, when the tailings dam broke and cyanide mining waste spilled in Tisa river and further on in the Danube.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorRoxana Pencea, Raluca Vestemeanu - Mining Watch Romania, [email protected]
Last update13/10/2015