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6 Aug 2015

Gabriel Resources seeks damages from Romania in intl. arbitration over blocking gold mine due to environmental & access to water concerns

In July 2015, Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources Ltd initiated a claim against the Romanian state before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), alleging breach of obligations in its bilateral investment treaties and demanding $4.4 billion in damages for losses related to its stalled Rosia Montana gold mine project. Rosia Montana was supposed to become the biggest gold mine in Europe by means of open cast mining using cyanide. The government withdrew its support for the project in 2014. 

Civil rights and environment groups had opposed the mine, arguing it would destroy ancient Roman mining shafts in the Rosia Montana village, its surrounding hillsides and pose an environmental risk from the cyanide used to process ore. 

In July 2016, a coalition of non-governmental organizations led by the Romanian NGO Alburnus Maior, communicated their interest in supporting the proceedings in form of an amicus curiae to the ICSID tribunal. The Tribunal has allowed the NGOs to submit their brief until September 2018. The decision on whether to admit the amici is likely to occur after its submission.

To date, a public version of the claimant’s memorial filed on 30 June 2017 has not been released. In March 2018, the coalition of NGOs sent an open letter urging the Romanian government to ask for full transparency of the proceedings which are currently suspended following the resignation of the President of the Tribunal Teresa Cheng in February 2018. On 5 April 2018, the appointment of Pierre Tercier as President of the Tribunal was announced and the suspension of the proceedings lifted. 

On 2 November 2018, public interest law organisations filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Roşia Montană community to include their perspectives in arbitration proceedings. On 6 February 2019, ICSID accepted the brief, although the tribunal decided to exclude all testimonials and legal arguments as well as reject the Romanian villagers request to participate in the hearings. 

The case hearings are scheduled for December 2019, in Washington DC.