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Certej gold mining, Romania


Certeju de Sus is an old mining centre in Hunedoara county, located in the south-eastern area of Metaliferi Mountains. The place lies within the Golden Quadrilateral of Apuseni Mountains. The gold mining project of Certej is owned 80% by the Canadian company Eldorado Gold and less than 20% by the Romanian state. For its features – the devastating impact on the environment, the legal flaws, the network of shareholders, i.e. the holding companies, the project operating in Certej is similar to the one proposed in Roşia Montană, attracting over time serious criticism by the environmental protection organizations in Romania. Since 2008, the local community started to show opposition to the project. The mining company intended to build two tailings dams, one of which for cyanide oxidation, on Frumoasei Valley within the Balşa commune. 102 local people and land owners in Voia, signed a memorandum against cyanide mining. The company had to change the location of their tailings management facilities (TMF). In December 2011 Eldorado Gold initiated the takeover of European Goldfields for the amount of 2.5 billion dollars. The acquisition was completed in February 2012. Eldorado Gold became thus the majority shareholder of the Deva Gold joint stock company. Eldorado Gold Corporation is a Canadian low-cost murky mining company listed on the Vancouver stock exchange, which holds mining perimeters in Greece, Romania, Turkey, China and Brazil. On 5 July 2012 the Regional Environmental Protection Agency in Timişoara (EPA) issued the environmental permit no. 8 for the mining of gold-silver ores in the Certej perimeter. Although the Regional EPA in Timişoara is subordinated to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MMSC), the minister of environment, Rovana Plumb, maintained that she only learned about the issuance of this environmental agreement at the beginning of September. In issuing the environmental permit for the Certej project, the authorities found as acceptable the impacts of 29 million cubic meters of water consumption from the Mureş River, the deforestation of 187 hectares of forest and overlapping of the mining project with the Natura 2000 – 0132 ROSPA Ore Mountains site over an area of 108 hectares. Due to public contestations and outrage among the Romanian public, the Environmental Protection Agency in Hunedoara requested additional biodiversity impacts report that however resulted in a new environmental permit issued in November 2013. Considering that the new document illegally replaced and revised the environmental permit issued by the Regional Environmental Protection Agency Timişoara in 2012, Mining Watch Romania decided to dispute the new act in administrative due process. The recent update in the environmental approval process mainly referred to the fact that the mining site is partially included in a nature site, Natura 2000 ROSPA 0132 Munții Metaliferi. Around 108 hectares of the mining site are part of the 26,600 hectares natural site, which, according to Mining Watch, was already known and included in the original paperworks to get the approval. What was lacking, however, was a study from the site owners on the impact of the mine on the larger natural site, something that should have been required to get the approval.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Certej gold mining, Romania
State or province:Hunedoara
Location of conflict:Certeju de Sus
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Gold

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to European Goldfields reports, the total investment value by the end of 2009 was about 43,000,000 US dollars.


After an oper letter to the Minister for Environment in November 2015 calling for an over-all assessment of the five sites as one and the court's admittance of a request by Mining Watch Romania to suspend the validity of the construction permit for Certej, Deva Gold was forced to stop their construction work. The court’s decision has immediate effect and an appeal would not override the decision until its final resolution. This means that the construction permit issued to Deva Gold to prepare the facilities in order to later build the tailings dams has lost its legal validity.


Eldorado Gold through its subsidiaries Deva Gold SA and European Goldfields SRL has obtained four more sites in the vincinity of Certej.

Eldorado Gold now holds a total of 4,591 hectares only in the southern area of Metaliferi Mountains. The total surface equals that of a city like Târgu Mureş, Arad, Bacău or Deva and comprises Certej, Sălişte Hondol, Băiţa Crăciuneşti, Certej Nord and Troiţa Piţigus. Although Eldorado Gold presents these concessions as distinct projects, a map prepared by Mining Watch Romania shows that they are actually a single unitary project. The different sites partially overlap and will be sharing the same technological infrastructure, namely the processing plant, trailings dam and roads network.

By presenting the sites as individual projects, Eldorado Gold circumvents the need to have their environmental assessments reevaluated. As a single entity the site would also face a high risk of being deemed too big and too potentially harmfull to be approved.


In October 2014 Deva Gold started construction work in Certej. The mayor announced that the neccessary permits had been granted but refused to present them to members of Mining Watch. After the opening of a courtcase to make those documents public and a petition to the then president-elect Iohannis the building permit was revoked and the works had to be stopped. In October 2015, however, a new construction permit was issued that allowed Deva Gold to resume construction works in Certej.

The gold-bearing deposit in the Certej perimeter has an estimated quantity of 45.5 mil. tonnes with a concentration of 1.8 g/t Au and 10 g/t Ag and is proposed to be mined on a 456.2 ha area. The Certej mining project, with a 16 year duration and a processing capacity of 3 mil. tonnes of ore/year, involves deforestation, soil uncovering, an open pit, two huge waste dumps and the use of cyanides to obtain gold, as well as building two tailings dams over 63.6 ha.

The project area is 456.2 ha, currently covered by: forests 187 ha, meadows 30.7 ha, arable fields 5.3 ha, residential areas 18.7 ha. Out of this area 62.8 ha will be turned into Certej open pit and 63.6 ha into tailings dams for cyanide tailings, in addition to the processing plant and other specific premises.

The ore is obtained by uncovering the soil and using explosives - ANFO (a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). This would result in a crater with maximum depth 290 m, dug in 30 m steps. The ore is delivered from the open pit to the processing plant by 65 t trucks for 24 h/day, 7 days/week, 360 days/year.

The scale of the Certej mining project requires the use of 26,448 tonnes of sodium cyanide and 15,280 tonnes of copper sulphate during the 16 years of operation.

Project area:456,2
Level of Investment for the conflictive project43,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:At least 3,100
Start of the conflict:20/05/2008
Company names or state enterprises:Deva Gold SA from Romania - Owner of the project
Gabriel Resources (GR) from Canada - Previous owner of the Certej gold deposit
European Goldfields LTD from Canada - Previous owner of Certej, company that resulted from the division of Gabriel Resources
National Company for Copper, Gold and Iron - Minvest S.A. (Minvest Deva) from Romania - Owns <20% of the Certej project; state owned company
Eldorado Gold (EG) from Canada - Canadian owner of Deva Gold SA (80%)
Relevant government actors:National Agency for Mineral Resources (NAMR)
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MMSC)
Regional environmental Protection Agency Timisoara (Timisoara EPA) Environmental Protection Agency Hunedoara (Hunedoara EPA)
Hunedoara County Council
Certeju de Sus City Hall
International and Finance InstitutionsING Bank NV from Netherlands - Funding line of 135 million USD to European Goldfields in 2010
WestLB from Germany - Funding line of 135 million USD to European Goldfields in 2010
Investec Bank from United Kingdom - Funding line of 135 million USD to European Goldfields in 2010
Caterpillar Financial SARL from Switzerland - Funding line of 135 million USD to European Goldfields in 2010
Gruppo Unicredito Italiano from Italy - Funding line of 135 million USD to European Goldfields in 2010
Export Development Canada (EDC) from Canada
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Mining Watch Romania network
Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources
Green Transylvania Association
Alburnus Maior Association
Efectul Fluture Association
Bio Eco Genuri Association
Prima Natura Association

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Desertification/Drought
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:Small agriculture and agro - tourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The Mining Watch Network decided to dispute the new act in administrative due process. The court case will be judged in the following one or two years. The revised environmental agreement obtained by Deva Gold for the Certej mining operation does not entitle them to actually start operations. A series of other permits and administrative documents to be issued by local and central authorities should precede the final permit for building the mining facility.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Romanian Mining Law

Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive - Natura 2000)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Interactive map on resource grabbing in Certej

REPORT: No silver lining for the Certej cyanide gold mine

Certej factsheet and News

Certej - Authorities' incapacity to critically analyse new mining projects

Certej Mining Project

Certej Project in Wikipedia

42 years since the accident at the gold mine in Certej, Romania

Facebook page

Mining Watch: Revision of environmental documents for Certej gold mining project in central Romania “illegal”

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

New permits for Certej (Biziday - Moise Guran)

Certej '71 documentary

Flash-Mob In front of the Romanian Environmental Ministry

Meta information

Contributor:Roxana Pencea, Raluca Vestemeanu, Mining Watch Romania, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1457