Disappearing Culture Photographer Vesselina Nikolaeva is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From her project ‘Sleeping Gold Under The Red Mountain‘. To see Vesselina’s body of work click on any image.
Europe’s largest gold deposits are believed to lie under the ancient village of Rosia Montana in the mountains of western Romania. The gold has been mined for at least two millennia, from the time of Julius Caesar to that of Ceausescu. The name of the village, which means “red mountain”, comes from the streams of red water which spring from the mountain, the toxic acid runoff which is the legacy of 2,000 years of uncontrolled gold mining.
The Romanian state-owned mining company, which operated the mine until early 2006, was forced to close its outdated and inefficient operation in the course of Romania’s negotiations for accession to the European Union. The mine was the only industry in the area; its closure sent unemployment soaring to over 80% and left many of the village’s 3,000 inhabitants facing destitution.
Then Canadian company Gabriel Resources launched an ambitious plan to build the largest open cast gold mine in Europe. The project involves relocating almost 2,000 people and their homes, along with eight churches and their graveyards.
In the ensuing controversy, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation declined to support the project. However Gabriel Resources proceeded with private capital and so far has succeeded in buying out 98% of the local homeowners.
Although Gabriel’s deal includes a commitment to comprehensive environmental rehabilitation, the battle over Rosia Montana continues to rage on the political scene.
When I arrived there to photograph this story, I saw Rosia Montana from a different perspective, that of the remaining families who have retained a sense of simple living, getting on with their lives as best they can. I realized that, amid all the propaganda and media drama, these people have been completely forgotten, left behind in the headlong rush for the commoditisation of the area they call their home.
By Vesselina Nikolaeva