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Hundreds of Roma forced to live in chemical laboratory of the CUPROM copper factory, Baia Mare, Romania


Description:

With anti-Roma sentiment running high in Craica,  Romania; Roma community living in informal settlement surrounded by apartheid wall build by the local  city government, were issued with eviction notices and demolitions of their homes began in 2012 by the same  government [5] [6].

The government decided to force hundreds of Roma, who until then had lived for decades in a very bad environmental condition ghetto; into even worse toxic and contaminated settlement: a former chemical laboratory of the chemical factory called CUPROM [1]. 

Roma people refused to leave their already precarious and degraded neighbourhood,  because they knew that the CUPROM factory has served as a hazardous and toxic waste disposal site. The factory among Romanians is known as a "plant of death"  [1]. 

The city mayor  of Baia Mare issued the eviction process, and the local police forcibly took Roma on trucks and drew them to the  factory [7] . This abandoned copper factory, was one of the most polluting in Romania. For decades, toxic chemicals were used and produced here [5]. The Roma community is familiar with the polluted and toxic conditions, as they worked in the factor until socialism breakdown in 1989 [5] [1]. And it worked again from 2003 until 2012 [8]. 

In the chemical laboratory of the factory, now  a living environment for the Roma, nobody from the government officials  had  ensured a healthy environment. The walls had been whitewashed prior to the eviction, but inside the rooms there were still chemical substances left over. The Roma again were forced by police to collect the toxic substances with no protection clothes nor gloves provided  [7] [1]. 

A Roma member went to see the alternative housing in CUPROM for herself and stated: “There were some iron wardrobes with a lot of jars… marked with a "danger" sign [6]. 

In just a few hours, 22 Roma children and two adults showed symptoms of poisoning. Emergency medical services were alerted, so ambulances with medical staff and  oxygen masks, assisted the poisoned Roma, who were then taken to hospital [1] [5]. 

Some Roma people in Craica resisted and did not move to the toxic factory, but their homes are considered unofficial and not recognised by the authorities [5]. Those forced to live in the chemical factory still remain living there, no alternative plan until today (2019) has been made and Roma community still lack healthy environmental living conditions [5]  [6]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Hundreds of Roma forced to live in chemical laboratory of the CUPROM copper factory, Baia Mare, Romania
Country:Romania
State or province: Baia Mare
Location of conflict:Craica
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Copper
Zinc
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Craica in Baia Mare is an old mining city of 150,000 in a bucolic region 60 km [4]. CUPROM is an abandoned state owned copper factory in Baia Mare, and was one of the most polluting in Romania [5]. For decades, toxic chemicals were used and produced here [1] [4]. Toxic waste still remains today [1] [2] [3] [4]. The mayor in charge in 2012, ordered the eviction of informal Roma settlement and placed the Roma community in the CUPROM, a place containing toxic chemicals and a poisoned surrounding environment (e.h. land, water)[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. Cuprom was abandoned in 1989 unitl founded again in 2003 until 2012, being the result of the merger between the metallurgical company Phoenix Baia Mare and the Elcond Zalău plant, two of the most important Romanian companies in the metallurgic industry. Five years later in 2017, Cuprom went into insolvency, the court formalized the bankruptcy required by creditor banks [8].

Romanian company "Cuprom" plans to invest up to 200m USD, if it wins on the tender, into the reconstruction of facilities and the commencement of production in the Mining Smelting Basin (RTB) "Bor", in addition to the previously offered price of 400m USD - the President of company "Cuprom", Mr. Simu, stated [9]. With the reminder that the Privatization Agency had announced that the decision about the winner on the tender would be announced soon. Mr. Simu futhermore said that "Cuprom" had given the best offer and that that sum had been provided with the financial support from American bank "Merrill Lynch" and German "Deutsche bank". "Cuprom" plans to invest into the reconstruction of the copper smeltery, the refinery unit, the reconstruction of existing and the opening of new mines in Bor, installation of new technology in the smeltery and broadening of capacities of the RTB. The project is currently under development and in the feasibility stage [9].

Project area:150
Level of Investment for the conflictive project600, 000, 000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:2,000
Start of the conflict:07/06/2012
Company names or state enterprises:CUPROM (CUPROM) from Romania - The owners (in bankruptcy) of the factory where the Roma were evicted
Relevant government actors:Romanian government.
The Mayor of Baia Mare (since 2011 until today 2019).
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Passive resistance to eviction

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Waste overflow
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Fires
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Accidents
Other Health impacts Chemical poisoning
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsForced housing in unhealthy conditions, separation and isolation of Roma communities

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Repression
Proposal and development of alternatives:Amnesty International (AI) [2] reminded the Romanian national and local authorities that
forced evictions constitute a violation of a range of international and regional human rights. AI furthermore required alternatives to eviction that must be put in place including provision of prior adequate notice, legal remedies, compensation for all losses and adequate alternative housing; relocation from the poisoned sites and alternative healthy housing. The requirement for the Roma community was not provided until today (2019) [3] [5] [6].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Forced eviction of hundreds of Roma in 2012 because the authorities fail to provide adequate alternative housing to all the persons affected. People were forcibly displaced by the government into a former chemical factory, that still contains hazardous and toxic chemical substances and poisoned land. The Roma still live in the chemical laboratory on the land that is an so far an abandoned copper factory (CUPROM). Another question is: what would happen again to the Roma if the new investments plans and re-establishing the CUPROM factory and even new mining activities in the surrounding area [9] go ahead ?

Sources & Materials

[1] Romanian Mayor Moves Hundreds of Roma to a Decommissioned Chemical Factory. On June 1, 2012, the mayor of Baia Mare, a town in northern Romania, decided to force hundreds of Roma, who until then had lived in very bad conditions in the ghetto called Craica, into an improvised accommodation in a former chemical laboratory of the decommissioned chemical factory CUPROM. The move was widely seen as part of Mayor Cătălin Cherecheş’s electioneering in the run-up to 10 June local elections in the country
http://www.romatransitions.org/romanian-mayor-moves-hundreds-of-roma-to-a-decommissioned-chemical-factory/

[2]Romania: Stop forced eviction of Romani settlement in Craica, Baia Mare
https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/40000/eur390022010en.pdf

[3]Romania: One Town Evicts the Roma in Its Midst
http://world.time.com/2012/06/21/romania-one-town-evicts-the-roma-in-its-midst/photo/to-go-with-afp-story-by-mihaela-rodina-2/

[4]Rehousing Romania's Roma signals swing to extremes
https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-romania-roma/rehousing-romanias-roma-signals-swing-to-extremes-idUKBRE85S0PE20120629

[5]The Roma children who languish at an abandoned factory
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25413737

[6]Scores of Roma face imminent forced eviction. Amnesty International
https://www.refworld.org/docid/50499a0c2.html

[7] ROMA LOST IN EU-ROPE. BAIA MARE
https://marikaschmiedt.com/2012/06/16/roma-lost-in-eu-rope-baia-mare/

[8] Zalau, Romania: Economy. (2018). The result of the merger between the metallurgical company Phoenix Baia Mare and the Elcond Zalău plant.
https://adevarul.ro/locale/zalau/aproape-2-milioane-lei-sutele-disponibilizati-cuprom-fost-angajat-cu-ochi-radem-unul-plangem-1_5b6d8d49df52022f75384b5e/index.html

[9] Company "Cuprom" from Romania intends to invest up to 200m USD in Mining Smeltery Basin "Bor"
https://www.ekapija.com/en/news/84119/company-cuprom-from-romania-intends-to-invest-up-to-200m-usd-in

Meta information

Contributor:Ksenija Hanacek ICTA-UAB
Last update08/08/2019
Conflict ID:4151

Images

 

A former chemical laboratory of the decommissioned chemical factory CUPRON

Bottles of chemicals at the abandoned factory where Roma people were forced to live. Source: http://www.romatransitions.org

Members of Roma community protesting

Members of Roma community refusing to be evicted to the toxic factory