A recent NewsBusters post about the role that leftwing billionaire George Soros played in undermining, quite literally, the economic future of an impoverished region of Romania, prompted a reader to send me a link to a profile of Soros published in 2003 which contains a tantalizing mention of Soros' involvement with another mining project in Eastern Europe.
Writing in the London magazine New Statesmen about Soros and his "Open Society Institute," journalist Neil Clark wrote,
Soros deems a society "open" not if it respects human rights and basic freedoms, but if it is "open" for him and his associates to make money. And, indeed, Soros has made money in every country he has helped to prise "open". In Kosovo, for example, he has invested $50m in an attempt to gain control of the Trepca mine complex, where there are vast reserves of gold, silver, lead and other minerals estimated to be worth in the region of $5bn. He thus copied a pattern he has deployed to great effect over the whole of eastern Europe: of advocating "shock therapy" and "economic reform", then swooping in with his associates to buy valuable state assets at knock-down prices.
Is that what Soros has done in Romania? He clearly has used his Open Society Institute's Romanian office to fund and lead opposition efforts by various non-Romanian environmental groups and NGOs to the proposal by Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company to mine gold in Rosia Montana, a proposal that included cleaning up the vast environmental damage done to the town by the now-closed communist-run mine.
Here's where it gets downright interesting. Soros owns a chunk of Denver-based Newmont Mining. Newmont owns a stake in Gabriel. Which means Soros, effectively, owns at least a small piece of Gabriel. By helping to kill the Rosia Montana project, Soros has driven Gabriel's stock price down significantly. At the same time the Rosia Montana project site itself still sits there, loaded with gold, and Soros is known to scoop up depressed mining ventures.
Writer Neil Clark's piece doesn't give details on how Soros pursued the Trepca mine, so I googled it and found the Trepca mine story is wrapped up within the NATO war in Kosovo against the Serbs.
A few months after the military occupation of Kosovo, the International Crisis Group (ICG) a think tank supported by Financier George Soros, issued a paper on "Trepca: Making Sense of the Labyrinth" which advised the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) "to take over the Trepca mining complex from the Serbs as quickly as possible and explained how this should be done". And in August 2000, UNMIK Head Bernard Kouchner sent in heavily armed "peacekeepers" ("wearing surgical masks against toxic smoke") to occupy the mine on the pretense that it was creating an environmental hazard through excessive air pollution.
Soros and his allies opposing Gabriel Resources' gold mine in Rosia Montana also claimed - falsely - that it would be an environmental hazard. The truth is, the existing shut-down communist-run mine is a bleeding environmental sore, turning area streams orange with all manner of toxic pollution.
Don't be surprised to see Soros come to the "rescue" of Rosia Montana by offering to purchase the mine.
And, unfortunately, don't be surprised if the Western media pays little attention.
This article in the Cyprus Observer also gives some good insight into how Soros operates, including his use of "think tanks" funded and controlled by him to manipulate policy in whatever direction most benefits his business interests and goals.
Kirk Leech, the freelance journalist and author of the GoldenMyths.com website, which focuses on the Rosia Montana story, writes that the mothballing of the Rosia Montan project "is an economic and social disaster for the 300-plus full time workers employed by the company, the majority of whom now find themselves laid off, and for the local inhabitants of this economically blighted valley village, who face an even more uncertain future than a week ago."
The only certainly for those who will suffer hardship through the freezing of the project is that the mine will continue to be a political football, kicked around by comfortable western environmentalists, rich local landowners, business interests hoping to benefit from a faltering project and opportunist Romanian and Hungarian politicians. Or anyone who feels like putting in their two cents- worth, without knowing the first thing about this complex and technically sound project. It has been trendy to dump on this project, though as fads come and go, this too shall pass. But why should disadvantaged people get caught in the middle?
In recent months the project has looked more like an episode from the television show LA Law than a mining company seeking to extract gold and silver from the ground. The project has found itself up to its briefs in court battles and dealing with a political class that it at best supine at worst downright Machiavellian. Makes you wonder who’s scripting this?
Answer: Soros. Read on...
The clear losers in this battle are the people of Rosia Montana. The clear winners, outside of lawyers and consultants, are those mentioned above who have effectively hijacked the real concerns of local people for their own partisan interests. It’s worth recounting what has occurred over the past few months.
In September the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development suspended the evaluation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a move that was clearly political, having no basis in Romanian law.
In November the local court in Cluj annulled an urban planning certificate that Alba county council had granted to RMGC. Alburnus Maior, the lead NGO opposing the mine and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation led the challenge to this urbanism certificate. In reality the certificate is not even a permit or an approval and cannot be legally challenged according to Romanian law. To add to this the court of appeal in Brasov also cancelled a certificate allowing RMGC to work on the Carnic Massif hills where traces of Roman mining remain.
A supine Romanian political class has allowed the National Liberal party and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania to act as a Trojan horse for those seeking not to stop gold mining in Rosia Montana but for it to be carried out by others.
The primary opposition to the Rosia Project was always portrayed by western media such as the New York Times and PBS as being local to the region and the country of Romania - the David vs. Goliath angle is a shopworn but still-beloved story structure for Western journalists - but the truth is that the opposition was always connected to and controlled by outsiders - Western environmentalists who didn't live in Rosia, or even in Romania, and of course Soros both personally and through his Open Society Institute.