Romania's mining tradition dates back over 2,000 years to Roman times and has been the backbone of many of its communities ever since. There can be no doubt that our country's history and archaeology deserves both recognition and preservation. But this must go hand-in-hand with securing the sustainable future of mining in Romania, thereby guaranteeing the survival of communities with no other viable future.
UNESCO exists to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world, considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. In the case of Roşia Montană, UNESCO's role is defunct. It is commonly accepted that the town's heritage should be preserved and valued, and an internationally recognised programme is underway to ensure that this happens. The heritage protection plan, instigated by Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC), has now been in place for over a decade, and has already restored the town's historic buildings, excavating its ancient mining galleries and opening a world-class mining museum.
This brings us on to the obvious issue of funding such a programme - UNESCO cannot (and would not purport to) provide the vast amounts of capital required to ensure the protection of Roşia Montană's cultural heritage. Over 850 properties worldwide are included on the World Heritage list and UNESCO itself recognises that it is incapable of providing sufficient funds to preserve and promote these treasures. Financial support is available - the World Heritage Fund provides around $4 million each year to support these properties. However, to put this into perspective, RMGC has already spent over $30 million on the research and protection of Roşia Montană's patrimony, with further commitments of $70 million to come.
Equally importantly, the local community does not want Roşia Montană to become a World Heritage site - this would automatically put a stop to the mining activities that have been the life blood of their town for thousands of years. Without mining, the population will struggle to survive and without funding, its heritage will certainly not.
The community needs mining - poverty levels are dangerously high and unemployment in the region is over 65%. The overwhelming local support for mining was demonstrated in a local referendum in December 2012, in which 78% said yes to the Roşia Montană Project. The community's survival relies on the continuation of its long mining tradition - to remove this tradition would mean no jobs, no future and no cultural heritage.
Modern mining will provide thousands of jobs and will help revive a dying regional economy; it will also enable proper research and conservation of Roşia Montană's vital ancient heritage. This is what the precious Roman remains of Roşia Montană deserve. And it is what we need to ensure that these historic sites can be enjoyed by the Romanian people, and visitors from around the world, for generations to come.